Frequently Asked Questions

A patent is a grant of property rights by the U.S Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. The right conferred by the patent grant extends throughout the United States. However, a patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion, but rather on the tangible manifestation of those ideas.

It is imperative for an inventor to understand that a patent cannot be granted if the invention was sold or publicly known anywhere in the world for more than one year, prior to filing for a patent. This is often referred to as the 1-Year-Rule. A patent also cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion, but rather on the tangible manifestation of those ideas.

Patent applications are examined for both technical and legal merit. Prior to filing a patent application, a search of existing patents should be conducted.

The following list comprises the most common patents inventors file for: Provisional Application for a Patent (usually incorrectly referred to as a Provisional Patent), Utility Patent, Design Patent, and to a far lesser degree a Plant Patent.

First, a Provisional Application for a Patent is only a one-year filing which holds limited power, and can be utilized for certain cases. This filing is most often abused and misunderstood. The provisional patent application will be destroyed after one year unless the inventor takes precise steps to convert to a Utility Patent. Filing for a Provisional Patent may appear straightforward, but special care to maintain the priority rights as well as various other patent considerations should be strategized. More details regarding Provisional Patents below.

Second, a Utility Patent, which is the most common form of patent protection, protects the actual function of an invention. When an inventor receives a Utility Patent, they are granted a twenty-year term for a new, useful and non-obvious process, machine, composition of matter, article of manufacture, business method, or an eligible improvement thereof.

Third, a Design Patent protects the overall appearance, or decorative nature of the invention. The patent can be of value in protecting the aesthetics of new industrial designs, if used properly. A Design Patent is granted a fourteen-year protection for any new, original, and visible decorative design of an invention.

Lastly, a Plant Patent is a twenty-year grant for asexually reproduced assortments of distinct new plants, hybrids, and seedlings other than tuber-propagated or existing in an uncultivated state.

There is actually no such thing as a Provisional Patent. There is a Provisional Application for a Patent that an inventor can file that is never examined and will be abandoned after 1-year unless it is converted into a Utility Patent. Provisional Patent Applications may be recommended for certain inventors who want to perform market testing, to raise capital while finishing their invention, or to gather technical data. Conversely, if not filed correctly, inventors can easily be misled into believing that these are cost effective patents. If the product is being marketed during this 1-year timeframe, the inventor will lose all of the time and money it took to file the patent as well as any exclusive rights they had to their invention. Inventors should tread carefully when they are offered overhyped, inexpensive Provisional Patents online. In reality, Provisional Patent Applications will often cost far more in the long run. Remember… You always get what you pay for.

Additionally, to obtain patent rights when converting to a Utility Patent, the Provisional Patent Application must be sufficiently to take advantage of the early filing date. Essentially, somebody who is skilled in the field of your invention must be able to make your invention simply by reading your patent application. You can not simply make a claim that you can not substantiate, such as filing a provisional patent on a time machine, flying car, or a perpetual motion machine without supporting documentation on how these are made. Because many inventors are not completely aware of these requirements, many of these provisional applications are abandoned after 1 year wasting valuable time, money and energy.

In the same sense that an individual can defend themselves in a court of law, an individual is given the opportunity to write their own patent application without the assistance of a Patent Attorney or Patent Agent. Before one should endeavor to write their own Patent Application, they should consider the years of schooling required to become a patent attorney or agent. These individuals must have adequate scientific and technical backgrounds of education as well as pass the patent bar which has a high failure rate. Remember… A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.


Conducting a Patent Search with an Opinion of Patentability from a licensed patent practitioner is the best way to start to understand which patent, if any, is recommended for your invention idea. Please keep in mind that a practitioner may caution you from filing any patent on your idea. The reason for this is it may interfere with a current patent or products that are already known in public.


Inventors should be cautious before submitting their invention idea online or sharing the idea with friends. America, as of March 2013, will become a “First to File for a Patent” country. If someone beats you to the patent office on your invention idea after that time period, they will have priority rights to the invention. When an inventor is ready to get started, we recommend submitting the invention idea with a Confidentiality Agreement and/or a Non-Disclosure Agreement. If an inventor is serious about protecting and marketing their invention, the best advice that we can give is to come up with a game plan of combining legal, technical, and marketing characteristics.


It is not required to perform a Patent Search before writing and filing your Patent Application. The United States Patent & Trademark office recommends that inventors get a search performed prior to filing the application but it is up to the inventor’s own discretion. You may find options online that advertise low cost Patent Searches for inventors. You should exercise caution if it seems too good to be true as these are usually not performed by a licensed practitioner and do not come with a Patentability Opinion. It is like checking to make sure there is water in the pool before diving in head first.


The main purpose of a Patentability Opinion is to aid the client in deciding whether to proceed with a patent application for the invention. The Patentability Opinion should identify the most relevant prior art to the invention, and it should give an indication as to whether the invention would be patentable over the prior art, and effectiveness of such patent protection.

The Patentability Opinion from a licensed patent practitioner can save you considerable time and money.


Getting a patent for your invention does not guarantee that your product will make money. A patent prohibits the ability for someone else to make, sell, or distribute your invention without your consent.


As long as you are not infringing on the patent rights of another person, you are legally allowed to market and sell your invention. Without a patent however, you can not restrict another person from selling the same product.


The term patent pending simply makes everyone aware that a patent application has been filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. This does not guarantee that the invention being marketed will ever actually obtain an issued patent. In many cases where an individual has prepared and filed their own patent, there is very little likelihood that it will ever convert to an issued patent.


Patent costs vary depending on many different factors. It is similar to asking how much a house or car costs. Without knowing more information, it is impossible to give a ballpark estimate. The type of patent, how complex the invention is, and who is preparing your patent application will all have a major impact on your total patenting costs. Typically, a Utility Patent will have a higher overall cost than preparing a Design or Provisional Patent Application. In addition to patent preparation fees, there is a government filing fee as well. Our company provides free consultation and recommendations for inventors and can provide a good estimate after we know more about the invention.


It is still a good idea to submit all materials that you have for your pending or issued patent and we can provide you a free consultation and recommendations on how to proceed with your invention.


We are not aware of all of the service offerings from Legal Zoom and concentrate mainly on how we can best help inventors. Everyone is encouraged to do their own research on how they would like to get started on their invention idea. We want to educate our inventors on their options and allow them to select the company they are most comfortable working with on their invention idea.


Unfortunately, until the invention idea has been fully developed, we are unaware of anyone having success selling invention ideas. It is wise to be cautious if you are receiving information contrary to this as it is probably too good to be true. Inventing is not a get rich quick scheme. Inventing takes time, has risk, cost money, and usually requires professional help.


To get ready for the Shark Tank, you should have a well-written patent filed or already an issued patent. You should also preferably carry inventory, have significant sales or strong sales projections, and a clear game plan on how the sharks can easily recoup their initial investment and more. Watching the Shark Tank is important for inventors to see real world examples of how to become successful profiting from their inventions.


A Copyright is a form of ownership and legal protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The Copyright Act of 1976 allows the owner of a copyright, usually the creator of a work, the exclusive right to produce or reproduce the work, or to permit anyone else the right to do so.

On the other hand, Trademarks are used to distinguish the goods or services of one person, or company from those of another. Names of products, a word or groups of words, slogans, phrases, symbols or designs, logos, or distinctive packages are all examples of features which are eligible for registration as trademarks.

There are two distinctive Marks, Trademarks and Service Marks. While a Trademark appears on the product and/or packaging, a Service Mark appears in advertising for an entity providing a service. Despite the difference, all registered Marks are valid throughout the United States, and may last indefinitely, as long as the owner continues to renew the Mark, and use the Mark in interstate trade.

Lastly, a Patent is a grant of property rights by the U.S Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A Patent excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. Most importantly, a Patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion, but rather on the tangible manifestation of those ideas. In the United States, the first to invent, and promptly file for a patent will have preference over those who invent later, or those that delay an excessive time in the filing of their patent. Keep in mind that in March 2012 the U.S. will become “First File” country.

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