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How Do I Obtain a Patent?

While "intellectual property" may sound like a complicated area of the law, its basic principles are simple: at its core, intellectual property law is about who owns property that is the result of mental efforts. The owner of this type of property has rights based on federal laws concerning patents, trademarks, and copyrights, as well as state laws concerning trade secrets.

A patent provides an owner with protection over a tangible thing. The federal government issues patents, which are documents that give the owner the right to exclude other people from making, using, or selling the invention. A patent owner has this exclusive right for twenty years. While some may argue that twenty years is not nearly long enough to maximize a patent's value, this time period is intended to recognize and reward particular inventors' efforts as well as move technological innovations forward. If you believe you have an invention that can be patented, you may wish to consult anattorney specializing in intellectual property to walk you through the process.

For your invention to qualify for a patent, you must show that your invention works and is new. That is, the invention must be different in some way from all previous inventions. It is preferable that the invention is not for sale and not known to others before you apply for the patent. To describe all aspects of the patent, you'll want to keep careful notes of the invention process, such as how you came up with the idea, every modification you made, and any prototypes you made.

You will also want to undertake a thorough patent search. You can start searching the Internet, or go straight to a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. These libraries are housed in municipal or collegiate libraries, and you can find a list of locations on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ("USPTO") website ( There, a librarian can assist you with your search. You will likely find inventions that are similar to yours, but do not be discouraged. If your invention improves upon or is different from earlier developments, then you may be able to obtain protection.

There are two options for filing patents, and an Orange County IP attorney can help you determine which is right for you. First, you could file the "regular patent application," also known as "RPA." This option starts the USPTO's examination process, which is needed to obtain a patent. Alternatively, you could file the "provisional patent application," also known as "PPA." The PPA is not an actual patent but simply allows you to claim patent pending status and can be converted to an RPA. One of the advantages of filing the PPA is cost, as it requires only a description of the invention, descriptions about how to make and use the invention, an informal drawing of the invention, and a small fee. It is important to note that you must file the RPA within a year of filing the PPA in order to claim priority to the PPA.

For more information on filing a patent, contact the intellectual property attorneys MYBE Law today.

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