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

Patents are a type of intellectual property protection provided for inventions and new 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, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to receive patent protection for your invention. This article provides a basic guide to filing a utility non-provisional patent application.

Definition of a Utility Patent

As mentioned above, there are three types of patents available for inventions and discoveries: plant patents, design patents, and utility patents. Design patents are available to protect the design or unique appearance of a manufactured object, while plant patents are for the invention and asexual reproduction of a new plant.

A utility patent is the most common type of patent and is available for new and useful machines, processes, manufactures, or compositions of matter. This type of patent is also available for any new and useful improvement for existing machines or processes as well. While machines and processes are self-explanatory, manufactures and compositions of matters may be a little less clear. Manufactures refer to goods, and compositions of matters refer to chemical compositions.

Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application Requirements

First, it's important to understand the difference between a provisional and non-provisional application. A provisional application can be filed to protect an invention or discovery while the applicant figures out the specifics and details of the invention. A provisional application also allows an inventor to think about if he or she actually wants to go through the process of patenting the invention. A non-provisional application is the official application for a patent, and it begins the examination process for determining if the invention can in fact receive patent protection.

Non-provisional patent applications generally must include a description and claim of the invention; drawings, if necessary; a declaration or oath by the inventor; and fees for the filing, search, and examination of the patent. All non-provisional utility patent applications have to be in English, or have an English translation with a statement that confirms that the translation is accurate, and a fee. A complete non-provisional utility patent application must contain all of the following elements, in the order they are shown:

  1. A Utility Patent Application Transmittal Form or Transmittal Letter
  2. The Fee Transmittal Form and the Required Fees
  3. The Application Data Sheet
  4. A Specification, with at least one claim
  5. Drawings, when necessary
  6. A Declaration or Oath by the Inventor
  7. When it's necessary, an Amino Acid Sequence Listing

These are the general elements for a utility patent application. There are, of course, specifications for how each of the elements must be presented. 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 provides detailed information as to how to provide these elements for a complete and valid non-provisional utility patent application.

Getting Legal Help

An application for a patent is a complex legal document, and failure to fill out the application correctly and include all relevant documents can prevent your invention from receiving the full protection afforded by patent laws or the denial of a patent. If you would like assistance in filing a utility non-provisional patent application, or have general questions about patent laws, you may want to consult with a patent attorney in your area.

For more information and resources relating to patents and other types of intellectual property – such as trademarks and copyrights – you can visit FindLaw's Intellectual Property section.

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