How to patent an invention in 8 easy steps

Are you wondering how to patent an invention, but feel scared of all the technical talk? Does the process seems too long and unknown? Are you scared of the cost?

A lot of potential inventors with great ideas shy away from pursuing those ideas and taking them all the way from a concept to a published patent and later a product. Why? In most cases the reasons can all be summarised in one word: overwhelm.

They have a great invention idea, but once they start to research the process of how to patent an invention, they often give up, lost in a sea of technical talk and invention patenting lingo.

conquer invention patenting overwhelm: how to patent an invention
Image courtesy of Walt Stoneburner
 how to patent an invention overwhelm

When i first had an invention idea i was really excited about, i fell through the same trap. I started full of enthusiasm, but the more i researched how to patent an invention, and realized what needed to be done, the more lost and scared i felt.

I remember distinctly that at the end of a day of reading about how to patent an invention, i was ready to give up. It all seemed to be too much trouble. There were processes to understand, procedures to follow – the path ahead was too intimidating.

So in the hope of helping you overcome this common feeling of overwhelm, here is a breakdown of the patenting process, into 8 easy steps. It aims to describe how to patent an invention, in a clear accessible way - hopefully making the process more clear.

Yes, there are more details involved in the invention patenting process than those i describe here, but this is a good overview of what you will need to do, from start to finish.

How to patent an invention - Step One:
Coming up with your invention idea

The process of how to patent an invention, starts with actually coming up with an invention idea. I am sure some inventions come to inventors as a strike of lightening. A light bulb literally lights up in their heads.

To be honest? I don’t think that happens that often. Most inventions are a result of either hard work, or identifying a need and coming up with creative ideas to solve it.

The best place to start? Things you know about. If you are a mom –what’s your number one concern when it comes to your children, and which product would you have liked to have that would solve it?

If you are a keen golfer, what will make your game better, easier, hassle free? Start with the need you have, and then think of creative ways to solve it. Look at your day to day habits, what annoys you?

What do people around you complain about the most? What kind of ad hock solutions have you come up with to solve your nagging problems? Can you improve an existing product in a way that makes a huge difference?

How to patent an invention - Step two:
Fleshing it out - from idea to concept

Ok, you have a vague idea on what you want to create. It’s your little invention. Now is the time to flesh it out.

Take a notebook, a pencil or a pen, and start writing everything that comes to mind. Describe your idea in detail, draw a simple picture that shows what you have in mind, write notes on how this could be improved. What is it useful for? Why do you think its new? What already exists and how is your invention concept better?

This process will help you gain a good understanding of your idea, its benefits and how it should ultimately look like. Before you can actually look into the part of how to patent an invention, you need to be very clear about how your idea will look like.

You might come up with new creative ways to improve it further, and you will have a great basis for the background document you might want to prepare for your discussion with a patent agent or attorney, when the time comes.

How to patent an invention - Step three:
Do an invention research

Now that you know what your invention idea is all about, it’s time to do some preliminary research to see if it is new and what else exists in the market.

Using the ideas you put on paper in step two, start looking for what the market has to offer. Google the description of your new product, questions regarding the need and even sentences you think are relevant.

You are trying to find out not only what products already exist in the market, but also if there is a real need for your invention idea. Will people be interested in such an invention?

If you have come up with a new feeding spoon for babies, Google: “spoon”, “feeding babies” etc but also “my baby won’t eat solids” or “my baby only wants to feed herself”.

These sort of searches will bring relevant posts and questions in forums and communities and will give you an idea of the needs and problems relevant to your invention concept.

You might also see other posters recommending appropriate solutions - these are potential competitors for your invention idea.

Remember, the objective of an invention research is to find out not only if a similar product exists in the market, but also if there is a commercial potential to your invention.

This is by no means enough to gauge if people might pay for your invention, you still need to do a more thorough analysis, but it will give you an idea of how critical is the need and if the solutions offered in the market are good enough or not.

If your invention idea did come up in your research, you probably cannot patent it. Try to find a new improvement on the existing products or another idea to help solve any perceivable problems with existing products.

Nothing similar comes up? Good, you might be on to something. However, in this case it’s even more important to try and research the need.

If nothing similar exists, you need to question whether you are really solving a real problem. If you are, then you are definitely on the right path. Lets move to the next step in the 'how to patent an invention' process.

How to patent an invention - step four:
Do a patent search

Once you established through your invention research that your invention idea doesn’t exist, it’s time to check if it has been patented before.

How? Through a patent search. It’s still not necessary to approach a patent attorney or a professional; you can definitely do a free online patent search on your own.

Do a worldwide search or search the US patent and trademark office patent database.

Did you manage to find something similar to your invention in the patent database? Always conduct several searches and use your invention notebook from step two to make sure you cover all the relevant keywords and potential classifications.

If nothing similar comes up - great. If some patents remind you of your invention idea but are not quite the same, print their documents and save them. They will be useful once you do approach a patent attorney to investigate patenting your invention.

How to patent an invention - Step Five:
Think about your business plan

No similar patents came up? Great. It’s time to think about submitting a patent application. But before we do that, you need to have a business plan in place. Well, a mini business plan. All you need to do is start thinking about what you will do with your patent, if and when you get one.

Will you license it to other companies to use? Will you manufacture and sell it yourself?

Ask yourself which markets are you likely to target? Do an invention research and decide on the most appropriate countries to target with your invention. This will help you priorities where you would like to submit a patent application.

How to patent an invention - Step Six:
Schedule a meeting with a patent professional

Schedule a meeting with a patent professional, usually a patent agent or attorney.

Discuss your invention, and bring along a detailed document describing what it is, what it’s useful for, the need it answers, its potential market, problems with existing products etc.

The more descriptive and self explanatory your document is, the better. Use your invention notebook from step two and your invention research from step three to write this document. This will help your patent attorney understand your invention better, and assist him in drafting your application quickly and efficiently.

Bring up any similar patents or patent applications that came up in your invention research and patent search.

Based on how comfortable you feel with you patent search, decide whether to order an additional search from a professional patent search service or rely on your own results.

At the end of this meeting a patent professional should be able to tell you if he has enough information to proceed and apply for a patent.

Or, he might suggest a more comprehensive paid patent search, or point out some issues with your invention idea.

How to patent an invention - Step Seven:
Apply for a patent.

While it is possible to draft your own patent application, the consensus is that you are better off using a professional, a patent attorney or agent.

There are costs associated and you should budget for a professional patent search (if you haven’t done one yourself), attorney’s fees (how much depends on the number of hours a patent attorney works on drafting your application), and the fees for submitting the application for each country in which you are interested.

How to patent an invention -Step Eight:
Wait and start planning for the future!

Once your patent application has been submitted, your invention idea is now protected.

While your invention will not necessarily receive patent protection, no one can apply for a similar patent in the country in which you applied for the same idea. Your application will have precedence.

You can start working towards creating your patent idea prototype, selling it, licensing it etc, and approach people disclosing your invention idea without fear.

Hopefully this has given you a good overview on the subject of how to patent an invention. Browse our site further, to find more information i detail on the subject.

Good Luck!

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