Protecting your work through the legal defense of a patent is critical to your rights as an inventor. Like most inventors, though, chances are that you’re more invested in the creative process of inventing than all the associated legal concerns. If so, it’s important to know what to expect throughout the patent process, as this will certainly have an impact on the timeline of your work.
The process of preparing and getting a timeline through the United States Patent and Trademark Office usually involved 4 steps through the agency of the Department of Commerce. These steps include:
- The Drafting Stage. This is the point in the process where the value of the invention is evaluated and identified. Inventors must consult with a patent attorney who will prepare the initial draft for the patent application alongside a set of drawings and claims. Other inventors or reviewers will have the opportunity to review the application and any suggestions will be considered and implemented into the draft. This entire stage generally takes 1-3 months to complete.
- The Filing Stage. Regardless of the type of patent for which you’re applying, this is the stage where the actual application is submitted. In the United States, filers must also sign a declaration stating that the invention is theirs and that they intend to claim it via patent. The inventor may also send a non-provisional patent application within one year of the first filed provisional application, thereby incorporating all subject matter that preceded the provisional application.
- The Examination Stage. During this stage, expect the correspondence between yourself as the inventor and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Since examinations occur in the order in which they’re received, the start of this stage could potentially be delayed by up to a year.
- Extracting Value. Finally, this is the stage where the inventor can accrue or extract value from a patent that is pending or a patent portfolio that has been issued. In other words, once the intellectual property, technology development, and other rights are protected as yours, it’s time to begin commercializing the product.
While patents will certainly help you protect your intellectual property, it’s not the only tool that you can use. Other legal tools at your disposal include trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.