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Obtaining a patent? It's a process

What is it like to obtain a patent? Ask Billy Beane, the one-time baseball general manager. As he expressed in the movie "Moneyball," "It's a process. It's a process. It's a process." In Beane's case, the process involved data analytics about on-base percentages and persuading his team to play to maximize that metric. It worked. But it took time.

The same can be said for successfully obtaining a patent. It can be so complicated, in fact, that a single misstep along the way often means serious loss. Not only can it delay an inventor's rights to monetize an idea, they could be lost completely.

What's involved

The process of getting a patent includes many steps. Each could warrant its own fee and some attorneys charge using such a model, but not all do. So, creators do well to know what the process entails and what they are getting for their money before spending a cent.

Step by step

  • A thorough patent search: It starts here, with the key word being thorough. There are ways to do a search yourself using readily available online tools, but to be confident of exhaustive results, a professional search is recommended.
  • Professional visual renderings: Ink drawings on a napkin might suffice to get the ball rolling on a provisional patent, but a recorded patent requires more. You will need a detailed illustration, but a prototype photo or graphic representation of the design might attract more attention from prospective licensees.
  • Writing the application: Assuming the call is made to advance the process and an attorney is engaged, a draft application is created for client approval. Upon being filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the invention has patent pending status.
  • Patent review: Once in USPTO hands, the application is reviewed by an examiner. This may take anywhere from a year to up to 30 months.
  • Office actions: Applications rarely go through unstopped. Legal problems identified prompt letters of notice. These require written and signed response addressing each issue. Meanwhile the application is on hold.

Application approval or rejection comes next. In the event it's rejected, several options may remain, but because of time elapsed, further action might be unwise.

Working with an attorney can be expensive. It doesn't have to mean entering a financial sinkhole.

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