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Okay, you have come up with a fantastic idea that will solve all the woes of
the universe - or at least make you $millions$ - what do you do? How do
you start?

Well, the first thing to do is get all your ducks in a row. Start a hard-bound
journal and put everything in writing. Draw pictures or diagrams of how
your invention works. Date and sign each page, and get someone you
trust to look at it and date and sign too.

Then, get ready to spend some money. Sorry, but it takes money to get
things going. If your idea is worth anything - which you can find out
through the process - you should file for a patent.

A patent gives you 20 years from the filing date the right to keep others
from making or selling your invention without your permission. That gives
you time to develop and sell your invention in the marketplace. Believe
me or not, getting the patent may be the easiest part. About 99% is in the
development and marketing of the idea.

To get a patent it is best to find a registered patent attorney or agent. I

know, attorneys are sharks. But in this case, their knowledge will get
through the government bureaucracy a lot faster and easier than you can
by yourself.

To give you an idea of what you are going to face when getting into the
patent process, here are some FAQ’s to help you understand better -


Q: What do the terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” mean?

A: They are used by the inventor - or his manufacturer or seller of his

product - to inform the public that a patent application has been filed with
the Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). You can be fined if you use
these terms falsely and deceive the public.

Q: Is there any danger that the USPTO will give others information con-
tained in my patent application while it is pending?
A: No. All patent applications are kept in strictest secrecy until the patent
is issued. After the patent is issued your file is made available in the
USPTO Files Information Room for inspection by anyone and copies of
the files may be purchased from the USPTO. (The Files Information
Room is where searchers go to prepare their patent searches - which are
needed to complete a patent application)

Q: May I write directly to the USPTO about my application after it is filed?

A: The USPTO will answer questions regarding the status of the applica-
tion, whether it has been rejected, allowed, or pending action. BUT, if you
have an attorney representing you, the Office will not correspond with both
of you. The best practice is for all comments be forwarded through your
attorney. Another thing - it can take some time before your application will
be assigned to an examiner, and what is called an “office action” will hap-
pen. Patience is needed.

Q: Do you actually have to go to the USPTO to do business with them?

No. Most business with the USPTO is done in writing and through corre-
spondence. Interviews with Examiners are sometimes necessary (and
sometimes helpful) but a lot of them are done by phone by your attorney.
The expense of a trip to D. C. is seldom necessary.

Q: If two or more persons work together to make an invention, who gets

the patent?

A: If each person had a share in the ideas forming the invention, they are
considered joint inventors and a patent will be issued jointly if they make it
through the application process. BUT, if one person provided all the ideas
for the invention - and the other person(s) has only followed instructions in
making the invention, the person with the ideas would be considered the
sole inventor - meaning the patent application and the patent itself shall be
in his/her name alone.
Q: What if one person supplies all the ideas to make an invention - and
another person either employs him and/or comes up with the money to
build and test the invention - should the patent application be filed jointly?

A: NO. The application MUST be signed by the TRUE INVENTOR - and

filed with the USPTO in the true inventor’s name. This is one time money
doesn’t count. It is the person with the ideas - not the employer - not the
money man - that gets the patent. If the greedy, blood-sucking, viperous,
money-grubbing, creatively non-contributing money man or boss wants
any part of the invention, he would have to get his hold through a contract
or license on the invention - not the patent itself.

Q: Does the USPTO control the fees charged by patent attorneys and
agents for their services?

A: No. This is strictly a matter between you and the attorney or agent.
Fees vary - as do attorneys and agents. You should feel comfortable with
your choice. It would be best to ask up front for estimates on charges for:
(a) a patent search; (b) The preparation of a patent application; (c)
drawings to accompany the application; and, (d) the prosecution of the
application before the USPTO. (NOTE: an attorney can only give you es-
timates. The cost of a search, and the application with drawings is pretty
well determinable up front. But the prosecution step depends on the Ex-
aminer and what he does and doesn’t like about your application. There
may be amendments that have to be made (expect at least one), and ne-
gotiations to transpire, which all take time and effort from the attorney)

Q: Will the USPTO help me pick an attorney or agent to do my search or

prepare my application?

A: No. The USPTO cannot make this choice for you. The Office does
maintain a list of registered attorneys and agents. Also some bar associa-
tions have lawyer referral services that may help you. If you have a gen-
eral attorney, although he can’t help you directly if he isn’t a registered at-
torney with the USPTO, he may help you with a referral.
Q: Will the USPTO advise me about whether or not a certain promotion
firm is reliable and trustworthy?

A: No. The USPTO has no direct control over such organizations. While
the USPTO does not investigate complaints about invention promoters or
promotion firms - or get involved in any legal proceedings relating to such
firms - there is a public forum to publish complaints against such firms.
The protections you have from patent promotion firms is spelled out in
laws passed in 1999. These promotion firms have specific duties of dis-
closure under this act. [See
for more info]

Q: Are there any organizations that can tell me how and where I may be
able to get some assistance in developing and marketing my invention?

A: Yes. Organizations in your community - such as Chambers of Com-

merce and banks - may be able to help. Many communities have locally
financed “business incubators” or industrial development organizations
that can help you locate manufacturers and vulture (I mean Venture) capi-
talists that might be interested in helping you. Do your homework - check,
check, check - and be careful.

Q: Are there any state government agencies that can help in developing
and marketing my invention?

A: Yes. Nearly all states have state planning and development agencies
or departments of commerce and industry that seek new products and ar-
ticles to manufacture, or processes to assist existing manufacturers and
communities in the state. A lot of these agencies are online - or at least
have listings in telephone books. If all else fails - write your state gover-
nor’s office.

Q: Can the USPTO help me in developing and marketing my invention?

A: No. the USPTO cannot act or advise concerning any business trans-
actions or arrangements that are involved in the development and market-
ing of an invention. They will publish the fact that your patent is available
for licensing or sale in the Official Gazette - at your request and for a fee.

Q: How do I start?

A: First, of course, you have to have an idea. Then that idea has to be
put down in a form so that it can be understood at least by a person that is
experienced in the field of endeavor that concerns the invention. This
usually is a written description and a drawing. Whatever it takes to explain
the invention.

The next step is a patent search - to see if someone else has come up
with a similar idea. A lot of times this is the case. And, a lot of times your
idea may be enough of an improvement to be unique enough for a new
patent. There are search firms available - and most patent attorneys have
access to their own favorites. It is best to commit only to the patent
search at first. Do not sign a contract for anything else just in case the
search finds your invention with no way to find “novelty” and “non-

If the search report looks good (watch out for the hype artists), it is time for
commitment. Choose your attorney and let it fly.

It is possible to file a patent application by yourself - but really - it is like

you going into a restaurant in Paris, France that is, and trying to order
from the menu. unless you know and speak the language, you won’t get
what you want. In the case of a patent, the USPTO will throw you out -
even if your invention is great - because the application does not speak
their language.

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Gary Cogley writes about all kinds of gadgets, gizmos, inventions and the
patent process. Get additional information at his website:

© 2006 Gary Cogley