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A Guide to Filing a Utility (Non-Provisional) Patent Application

Patents are a type of intellectual property protection. Patents protect inventions and discoveries. Generally, an invention that is a product or process that is useful, novel, and non-obvious is eligible for patent protection.

There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Regardless of the type of patent, you must apply with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to receive patent protection for your invention.

As a business owner or startup company, you may have many questions about the patent application process. How do I complete a patent search? What does the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office look for to approve a patent application? Do I need to fill out a utility application?

This article provides an essential guide to filing a utility non-provisional patent application.

Definition of a Utility Patent

As mentioned above, three types of patents are available for inventions and discoveries:

  • Plant
  • Design
  • Utility

Design patents protect the ornamental design or unique appearance of a manufactured object. Plant patents are for the invention and asexual reproduction of a new plant. A utility patent is the most common type. A utility patent protects new and useful:

  • Machines
  • Processes
  • Article of manufactures
  • Compositions of matter

This type of patent is also available for any new and useful improvement for existing machines or processes. Manufactures are goods, and compositions of matters are chemical compositions.

Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application Requirements

First, it's essential to understand the difference between a provisional and non-provisional application. You can file a provisional application to protect an invention or discovery while you work out the specifics and details. This application also gives you time to decide if you want to go through the patenting process.

A non-provisional application is the official application for a patent. It begins the examination process to determine if the invention can receive patent protection. Non-provisional patent applications generally must include:

  • A description and claim of the invention
  • Drawings
  • Declaration or oath by the inventor, if necessary
  • Search fees
  • Examination fees

The USPTO may add more fees for extra pages, claims, or drawings. All non-provisional utility patent applications must be in English. If not in English, then an English translation with a statement confirming the translation is accurate. There is also a fee. A complete non-provisional utility patent application must contain the following elements:

  • A utility patent application transmittal form or transmittal letter
  • Fee transmittal form and required fees
  • Application data sheet
  • Specification with at least one claim
  • Drawings, if and when necessary
  • A declaration or oath by the inventor
  • Amino acid sequence listing when necessary

These are the general elements for a utility patent application. There are presentation specifications for each component. For example, the size of the paper or PDF submitted to the USPTO must either be 8 ½ by 11 inches or DIN size A4.

The USPTO gives detailed information on how to provide these elements for a complete and valid non-provisional utility patent application.

After you file your application, your invention is patent-pending. Patent-pending puts others on notice that you have applied for patent protection. Once you file your application, your application goes to an assigned patent examiner.

Patent examiners review for patentability and compare your invention to prior art. The USPTO will publish your patent once granted 18 months after the earliest filing date. You must pay an issue fee and maintenance fees to keep your patent protected.

Determine your Eligibility for Small and Micro Entity Status

The USPTO considers independent inventors, nonprofits, and small businesses small entities. Having small-entity status provides reduced filing fees compared with larger entities.

The Pro Se Assistance Program offers educational resources to help you understand your patent rights. One of the resources is a utility patent application filing checklist. If you are considering filing for patent protection in many countries, consider filing a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application. PCT provides inventors with an international filing system.

Getting Legal Advice

An application for a patent is a complex legal document. If you need help with filing a patent application or have questions about patent laws, talk to a patent attorney in your local area.

Visit FindLaw's Intellectual Property section for more information on patents and other types of intellectual property rights — such as trademarks and copyrights.

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