An In-Depth Look At Patent Applications

What You Need To Know To Protect You and Your Invention

If you want the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to approve a patent, you need to do your homework, carefully prepare it and file for it. Before you get the application prepared, figure out if the invention has some commercial potential, that it meets all requirements and conduct a thorough patent search. Once you’re confident in your invention for patent approval, you can start the patent application process.

Patent Applications

What You Can Expect During The Patent Examination

Every patent application that gets filed must undergo a rigorous examination process.  Your application will be given to a patent examiner who will inspect it for two things:

- The invention meets all patentability requirements
- The application uses all USPTO format and language

You’ll be contact with each other by phone or letter until an agreement is reached on what parts of the invention is covered by the patent. This can take between one and three years.

The process can get discouraging but don’t let it frighten you. Most patent applications are denied their first time around… even when a patent attorney files the application for you. To decrease the amount of problems you encounter, prepare the application carefully. 

Four Parts Of The Patent Application

There are four parts of the patent application process:

1 – Specification
2 – Drawings
3 – Claims
4 – Abstract

Specifications along with the drawings can explain how to develop and use your invention. The claims will define the patent’s boundaries and scope. You need to include the abstract to recap the invention.

1 – Specifications

This part of the patent will have several elements, which will tell a narrative that defines and differentiates the invention. Specifications must give details about the invention so someone in the field knows how to make and use it without additional experimentation.  It should also reveal the “best mode” of developing and using your invention. If an inventor learns of a better way to develop it, you could lose your patent rights. There are several parts of the specification:

- Invention title – This should be brief, accurate and graphic
- Invention background – This will need to include subject matter and description of previous inventions. Do your research during this part especially if you’ll be referring to earlier inventions.
- Invention summary – Provide an overview of what your invention can do and how it solves the problems in your background section.
- In-depth invention description – This will give a complete description of the invention’s structure and operation so people with ordinary skills can follow it to create and use.

2 – Drawings

Be sure your application has drawings of your invention to show how that invention works. Some applications won’t have a need for a drawing unless a flowchart can diagram the process. The drawings need to cover all aspects of the invention noted in the claims section. There are strict requirements from the USPTO on drawings and claims. Thus, it would be wise to look at other patents in the field to know what the section formats are.

3 – Claims

These are in-depth statements regarding what your invention covers, which is often regarded as the most important part of the application.

Mail or Electronically: How To File Your Application

You have the option to file your application either by electronically or mail. Now, what must you do to file your application by “snail” mail?

1 – Make up to two copies of all documents you plan on sending.
2 – Get a receipt by placing a stamped self-addressed postcard to the documents.

The postcard needs to identify in depth all documents you are submitting including how many pages and items. Be sure it has the application filing date, invention title and your name. The entity will stamp that postcard with an application number and receipt date. However, look it over to ensure they received everything you sent.

If you plan on filing it electronically, you need to use the Electronic Filing System. This allows you to send documents – amendments and applications – to be filed. Now, the first EFS was difficult to use; the EFS-Web is a significant improvement. You’ll need to convert your documents to PDF. If you’ve got one application to file, it would be easier to send a paper copy by mail.

There are some significant advantages to using the EFS-Web:

1 – Application can be filed from anywhere you have access to the Internet
2 – You can obtain immediate confirmation of the documents being received
3 – Send application out to PTO without making a trip to the Post Office
4 – File application without preparing the for application transmittal, dealing with the transmittal fee, Credit Card Payment Form or receipt postcard.