A utility patent is a type of patent that protects new and useful products and processes and their improvements. The patent owner can stop others from making, using, selling, and importing the patented invention into the United States. A utility patent will expire 20 years from the filing date of the nonprovisional patent application. To secure a utility patent, the inventor must file a utility patent application (provisional patent application or nonprovisional patent application) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The cost to secure a utility patent is between $12,000 to $25,000.
Is a patent worth the cost?
A patent can be an invaluable asset if significant market demand for the patented invention exists. I advise clients to only spend money on a patent for big money ideas. These are the ideas worth copying by others when they see you being successful. When they copy the patented product, the patent owner can stop them from selling these copycat products. If the market cap is small, then no one will bother copying your invention.
You can also read my article on the pros and cons of getting a patent.
Inventors sometimes have a dream of making money by licensing their ideas. If that is your goal, most people don’t make significant money by licensing their patents. Companies prefer to design around your patent than pay you a royalty for your idea. As such, it is not easy to license an idea.
Is it worth it to get a patent even if it is easy to get around?
Yes, a patent is worth getting as long as you understand the breadth of patent protection you can get for your invention, and that breadth of protection is sufficient for you.
To determine the breadth of potential patent protection, you need to conduct a reliable patent search. The patent search will tell you which features of your invention you cannot protect.
You need to understand the office action which is where the examiner will explain why they are rejecting the claims of the patent application. The examiner appears to be citing non-analogous prior art but may be telling you that your claims are so broad that it covers non-analogous prior art. They may just want you to narrow down your claims.
To get broader patent protection, you can file a continuation patent application to develop those claims into broader and broader protection. But, there are costs associated with this strategy.
How does a utility patent benefit the inventor?
A utility patent gives the patent owner the right to stop others from making and selling the same product. With this right, you can sue your competitors or even sell this right to others in the same market space.
How is a utility patent different from a design patent?
A utility patent protects a functional or useful invention, whereas a design patent protects the looks of a product. Read “What are the differences between utility and design patents?“
When does a utility patent expire?
A utility patent expires 20 years from the filing date of the first nonprovisional patent application. The filing date of the provisional patent application is not used in determining the expiration date of the patent. The patent term can be extended if the patent office does not examine your patent application in a timely manner.
How do you obtain a utility patent?
To obtain a utility patent, the inventor must submit a patent application that describes and shows how to make and use the invention. This patent application is submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It can be submitted as a provisional or nonprovisional patent application.
However, before submitting your patent application, a formal patent search is recommended. The patent search will let you know whether you can get a patent on your invention. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will get a patent even if you don’t find any prior art. But, it will increase your chances.
The patent office provides a tutorial on how to conduct a patent search yourself. The Seven-Step Patent Search Strategy is a reliable process you can use to conduct your own patent search for free. If you hire a patent attorney to do a patent search, make sure that they are following these steps.
What is the cost of obtaining a utility patent?
The cost of obtaining a utility patent is relatively cheap if you do it yourself without the help of a patent attorney. The government fees would cost about $1,000 to $2,000. However, in my experience, the scope of patent protection is oftentimes too narrow because the layperson doesn’t understand the significance of each word in the claims section.
By hiring a patent attorney, you will generally get broader claims. But, the cost for the utility patent will be significantly higher. Utility patents with the help of a patent attorney will cost you about $12,000 to $25,000. A good patent attorney will also help you to save money by stopping you from spending time and money on an invention that isn’t patentable.