Step By Step Invention Patent

Non-Disclosure Agreement: A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is the first order of business before discussing a new idea with anyone.  These are relatively brief documents that formalize an understanding between entities regarding disclosure of ideas.  Essentially an NDA requires the recipient of confidential material to guard that information and not disclose it to anyone.  Because of this, sharing ideas with the NDA in place does not qualify as public disclosure.

Design or Utility Patent: If you plan on manufacturing an item or license an concept, you will need to protect your idea.  Otherwise you run the risk of losing it or, if you are successful, being copied.  This is what the patent process is about.  The most fundamental distinction in the patent world is between patents that describe what something looks like (a design patent), or patents that describe how something functions (a utility patent.)  The complexity of a patent depends upon the specifics of the idea.  However, in broad terms, a utility patent is usually more complex and costly to file than a design patent.
A design patent contains no claims regarding function, so the strength of patent relies solely on what is contained in the drawings (what the item looks like.) Therefore the level of protection may be significantly less than that provided by a utility patent.  For instance, if there is an alternate way to design a product that has the same function as yours, yet looks sufficiently different, it may not fall within the scope of your patent.

However with a utility patent, what is being claimed is typically how the device functions, not so much how it looks.  If the item or process is unique enough and the claims are well crafted, they can sometimes offer very broad protection. There is an art to constructing a patent and to writing claims.  It’s one of the reasons why there is so much mystery about patents. So, if you are going to the extent of investing in patent protection you would be well advised to seek the assistance of a skilled patent attorney.

Provisional Patent: This can offer a low cost first step for inventors on a tight budget.  A provisional patent offers the opportunity to describe a concept in great detail and obtain a filing date.  This effectively “date stamps” the idea and you will have the right to put a “patent pending” label on your invention.  You will then have one year to file a utility patent. During this time it should be possible to get a sense of whether the idea is commercially viable and thus worthy of the significant investment of filing a utility patent.  The contents of the provisional patent are not examined, but they will form the basis of what is claimed in the eventual utility filing.   So it’s important to fully explore all the possibilities of the invention before completing the provisional patent.