General Patent Information

For descriptions and different types of patents, see the Protecting Intellectual Property page.

There are many, many books and websites dedicated to information about patents so this page will address only a few of the most asked questions and advice about patents.

Can I File My Own Patent?

If you are filing a provisional patent application (PPA), you probably can file your own and be just fine.

However, any other type of patent probably would be best filed by an experienced patent attorney. There is a tremendous amount of time invested in filing even a simple utility patent and each portion of the application must be done properly and accurately or the chances of being awarded a patent is not very high. While a patent attorney can be very expensive, you usually do get what you pay for. There are legitimate reasons patent attorneys cost as much as they do.

What Does a Patent Cost?

A provisional patent (PPA) can cost as little as $65.00 but any other patent (using an attorney) will typically cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the complication of the invention and the patent attorney used.

Can I Reduce the Cost of a Patent by Doing Some of the Work Myself?

A large part of the cost of a patent attorney is doing a complete, comprehensive patent search. This does take a great deal of time but many patent attorneys will take any patent search information you have and use it to save them some search time. They will have to do their due diligence and do additional searching in most every case and verify your information but with the right information to start with, they can save several billable hours.

An attorney will have to write up many details about your invention in order to get the patent issued. Because of this, the more detail you can document about your idea, the better your attorney will understand what your invention does and how it works. This will allow him/her to write better details and in a shorter amount of billable hours which in turn will save you money.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Patent?

You are protected and have the ability to claim “patent pending” as soon as you complete the filing for a provisional patent application (PPA), however, a utility patent must be applied for within one year of filing the provisional patent application (PPA) in order to keep the original filing date valid.

A utility patent will typically take anywhere from 1 – 3 years to be awarded from the time the application is submitted.

What Ways Can Intellectual Property (IP) be Protected?

An invention or IP can be protected in different ways depending on what it is. The possible options are provisional patent application (PPA), utility patent, design patent, plant patent, trademark and/or copyright. In some cases it may be wise to use multiple points of protection. For marketing purposes, it may be wise to get a utility patent and a trademark. Many inventions benefit from multiple patents to protect several different aspects of an invention.

What Can be Patented?

According to U.S. patent law, any person may obtain a patent who:

  • Invents or discovers any new and useful process (a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes)
  • Machine
  • Manufacture (refers to articles that are made, and includes all manufactured articles)
  • Composition of matter (chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds)
  • Any new and useful improvement thereof

These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.

The invention must also have some utility usefulness (the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also can operate).

The invention must not be obvious.

What Can NOT be Patented?

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • The claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.
  • The claimed invention was described in a patent issued [by the U.S.] or in an application for patent published or deemed published [by the U.S.], in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.

A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc. and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.

NOTE: This information comes from

What if My Idea is Already Patented?

  • First thing to determine is if the patented idea is exactly like your idea or not. If it is different, how different is it?
  • If it is exact, is the patent still active? If the maintenance fees have not been paid or if the patent is old enough, it may have expired.
  • If there is an active patent on exactly the same idea, you need to look at the claims of the patent. If the patent claims it is for a different use than your idea, you still may be able to get a patent for your use.
  • If there is an active patent on your idea and the claims are basically the same, you may be able to contact the patent owner and purchase the patent or the rights to it.
  • If there are any doubts, it would be advisable to hire legal counsel.

Start to Finish Inventions Corp can help you every step of the way to develop your idea or invention including prototyping, securing your patent, manufacturing, and marketing. We can do any parts or all of it—it is YOUR idea so YOU are in control!

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