The patent application process is exciting and can help your career in the sciences flourish. Applying for a patent takes time, though, and it can be complex. Learn what to expect when trying to obtain a patent and prepare yourself for any situation.
What Can Be Patented?
The patent office will review your materials, including any engineering and science notebooks you used to aid in your discovery. They’re examining what makes your discovery or invention unique. Among other attributes, they’ll look for:
- Novelty: is your discovery new? Does it add anything of value to existing materials?
- Utility: is the item or process useful? What function does it serve?
- Non-obviousness: would a person having ordinary skill in the art (PHOSITA) be able to figure it out on their own or create the same process? Your discovery and invention should be unique.
Has It Been Done?
Before you apply for a patent, you’ll need to search through public disclosures to ensure nobody has already patented your idea. If you’re not familiar with the process, you can contact an attorney familiar with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).
What Kind of Patent Do I Need?
There are three main types of patents, according to the USPTO:
- Utility patents are the most common type granted by the patent office. They are granted to people who invent or discover useful processes or machines, or those who pioneer new improvements to existing processes or machines.
- Design patents are for those who invent original and ornamental designs for an existing manufactured piece.
- Plant patents are granted to scientists who discover and are able to asexually reproduce a new species of plant.
Regardless of the type of patent you’re looking for, it’s always smart to enlist legal help from an attorney experienced with patents. As you begin the process, keep all relevant information about your discovery handy, including your trusty lab notebook. When you know what to expect when trying to obtain a patent, you can more easily prepare to head to the patent office.