How does someone obtain a U.S. Patent?

     The first step is to discuss your invention with a patent attorney before disclosing it to anyone, or at least as few people as possible.

     A patent search may be the first step in the patent process.  It is not required, but optional.  If the inventor or applicant wants to file a patent application, the inventor or applicant can file an application for either a Utility Patent or a Design Patent.  And if a Utility Patent, then either a Provisional or Regular (Non-Provisional) patent application.

     A Design patent is for the ornamental appearance of an object, not functionality.

     A Utility patent applies to new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement therof.

What is the difference between a Provisional and Non-Provisional patent application?

     A provisional patent application is not examined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), so it never issues as a U.S. Patent.  You must file a non-provisional (regular) patent application within one (1) year of the filing of the provisional patent application to retain the provisional filing date.  The filing date is important because it determines the date who has priority over the right to file a patent application for an invention, and also certain prior-art dates.  The first to file rule means, whatever entity filed first is the only one that will be allowed to complete the patent examination process.

     A non-provisional (regular) patent appliction is examined by the USPTO and may issue as a U.S. patent so long as any rejections or objections, if any, during the examination process.

     Also, non-provisional (regular) patent applications have more filing requirements, so the cost is usually higher then the preparation and filing of a provisional patent application.

What happens after the patent application is filed?

     After a provisional patent application is filed, the USPTO will provide the filer with a filing receipt.  Unless the filing fee or some other requirement is missing, the USPTO maintains the application and it is not examined.

     After the filing of a non-provisional (regular) patent application the USPTO will cue the application for examination, unless the application has missing parts.  If the application has missing parts, then the USPTO will mail the filer a Notice of Missing parts and provide two (2) months to provide the missing parts (fees, drawings, or other portions of the application).

     The USPTO examiner assigned to the application will usually send an Office Action about one and a half (1.5) years after the filing date.  The inventor or applicant then has to file a Response to further prosecute the application.  About 85% of the filed patent applications are rejected or objected to, requiring some type of Response.  If the application is allowed, it is usually issued about two and a half (2.5) years after filing.