Have an Idea or Invention? 6 Steps You Need To Take To Protect It and Set Yourself Up for Success.

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Andrew Rapacke is a registered patent attorney and serves as Managing Partner at The Rapacke Law Group, a full service intellectual property law firm.

Do you have an idea or invention that can make a positive impact on people’s lives? Fantastic!

Before you can turn your idea or invention into a success, you need to do one thing. Protect It.

Follow the 6 steps below to protect your invention and set yourself up for success in the future.

Step 1: Document

It is very important to have proof of when and how you came up with your invention or idea.

Use an inventor’s notebook to write down all things related to your invention or idea, starting with when and how you came up with it. Also include how it works and what problems it will solve.

Be as detailed as possible and make sure you include any designs, features and/or specifications. An inventor’s notebook has consecutively numbered pages that can’t be removed or reinserted.

Be sure to have your notebook signed by at least two reliable witnesses.

Although this is an important measure to take, it is not ironclad.

In 2011 The America Invents Act was passed. Under the new law, a patent will go to the first person who files, unless the idea has already been publicly disclosed.

In that case, the person who first published their idea has up to one year to file for a patent. Public disclosure could mean publishing an idea or invention on a blog or somewhere else in the public domain.

We recommend that you speak to a patent attorney before publicly disclosing your idea, as there can be consequences for doing so.

Step 2: Research

Before you file for a patent you should do some preliminary research. Starting with the following:

Existing Patent Search – Although your invention may be new to you it may not be your invention after all. Conduct a preliminary patent search for free at uspto.gov to make sure your idea is not patented already. Deciphering the results can be challenging but if you decide to work with a patent attorney in the future they will help you through this process.

Market Research – Is there actually demand? Before investing your time and money into patenting your idea or invention, conduct preliminary research of your target market and competition to determine if there is a need for it.

Once you know your target market you will be able to better determine if your idea or invention is worth investing in.

Step 3: Build a Prototype or Apply for a Provisional Patent

When patenting your idea or invention, it is extremely important that you can describe the mechanics and/or functions of your invention in specific detail on the application.

To do so, you may need a prototype or professional renderings. If you do not have either of these, it may be in your best interest to file for a provisional patent.

A provisional patent shows intent to file for a patent and can describe your invention or idea in much less detail. This will buy you time, allowing up to one year to either build a prototype or develop renderings so you can then apply for a patent.

In some cases, you may be able to bypass this step and apply for a patent immediately.

For example, a software company may be able to create a visual mockup showing how their software would work and apply for a patent using that, before creating a working version.

Step 4: File for A Patent

As we discussed earlier, the law regarding patents changed dramatically in 2011 with the passage of The America Invents Act. At that time, the federal law switched from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system.

This means that it no longer matters who came up with the idea first. The 20-year exclusivity will rest with the person who first files for a patent, or publicly discloses the idea or invention.

If you have any idea or invention worth protecting we highly recommend that you speak with an experienced patent attorney.

At The Rapacke Law Group, we offer our services for an affordable fixed fee and have successfully patented hundreds of inventions for our clients.

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Step 5: If Rejected, File A Request for Reconsideration

The vast-majority of patent applications are rejected initially. Some common reasons for the rejections include:

• Incorrect claims language.
• Multiple inventions on one application.
• Invention is non-patentable.
• Invention is subject to an existing patent.

If your filing is rejected, you can reply with corrections or clarifications and ask that your application be reconsidered.

If that doesn’t work, you can then file an appeal with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Rejections can add significant time to the patent filing process. Working with an experienced patent attorney can help you avoid rejections and other setbacks.

Step 6: Receive Your Patent

If you receive your patent, it will grant you exclusivity to manufacture and market your invention. Just be sure to pay the required maintenance fees due 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after the patent is granted.

The patent application process can be very complex, having an experienced patent attorney to guide you through the process and help you avoid pitfalls can be invaluable.

At The Rapacke Law Group, we offer our services for an affordable fixed fee and have successfully patented hundreds of inventions for our clients.

We would love to answer any additional questions you have.

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