Patents…Do You Need One and How to Get One?

For independent inventors, a patent is a good way to protect your idea from big companies stealing it. However, they still may steal it so you have to be ready to defend your patent.  Some people call a patent a license for litigation.

I enjoyed 17 years of protection on my NITELITE golfballs but before my patents were issued a company started producing lighted golfballs exactly like my golfballs. However, once my patents issued, my attorney prosecuted the infringing company in a foreign country and shut them down.  The infringing company president told me that he did not believe I would get patent protection, and until I did, he would continue to make lighted golfballs. Sometimes you can expedite your case against an infringing company by getting action on your patent faster.

My first patent was on my Automatic Curveball but it was not easy to get. The patent examiner said there was prior art which means there was some other invention that was “teaching” my idea.  This prior patent was a baseball marble game where the “ball” was a marble with a slice off of it. This ball was not thrown. It was rolled on the surface of the baseball board game. So I tracked down the owner of this marble ball patent and he was nice enough to state in writing that his marble ball baseball game did not teach anything about how my Automatic Curveball operated. Once I had that affidavit, my patent attorney was able to get my patent allowed and issued.  So keep on fighting and never give up!

Some years ago I calculated the average time for all my patents to issue and it was 19 months. This may not be true today because of the number of patent examiners at the USPTO…..United States Patent and Trademark Office.  I have heard patents can now take from 24 to 36 months.

Costs…….the first thing you need to do is search to find out if anyone has an idea similar to yours.  You can do it yourself or have a patent attorney or patent agent do the search. The cost to do a search ranges from $350 to  $1000 depending which patent attorney you go to.  A world wide search  will cost more than just a U.S.A. search.   Once the search is done, you can then decide if you want to file a patent application.   A provisional patent application will cost about $2000 plus the USPTO filing fee of $125.

A regular utility patent will cost between $3500 and $7,000 depending upon how complicated your invention is.  Electronics, computers and software patent applications will cost more.  USPTO filing fees will be about $530.  A design patent application will cost about $900 plus the USPTO filing fee of $265. Drawings of your invention will run about $150 per page.

Once you or your patent attorney file your patent application, you then move to the prosecution phase with official actions and amendments.  Your claims are the bullets that make your patent strong.  Usually there are arguments about how many bullets or claims that you are entitled to.  These amendments will cost about $800 to $2000 depending on how complicated your amendments are.

Finally, if you are lucky, the USPTO will issue a Notice of Allowance. Then formal drawings will be made and you must pay an issue fee of about $685. You will be billed for more attorney time also.

Maintenance fees……someone at the USPTO thought this would be a great way to make more money from inventors.  Just because you have your patent does not mean you do not have to keep paying for it.  These fees can run approx. $3,000 to $6,000 depending if you are a small entity or a large entity and they are not just a one time fee so get ready to keep maintaining your patent.

Timing… a rough time line, a search can take from one week to 6 weeks. Your application preparation may take 3 to 8 weeks.  Prosecution phase may take 18 to 24 months and the issue phase may take from 3 to 9 months.  Today your patent protection runs for 20 years from the day you file your patent application as compared the the 17 years it used to be from the date your patent issued.

Patents are a great way to protect your idea but take time and cost money. There are several other ways to protect your ideas which I will be happy to discuss with you.   My next subject will be HOW TO TEST YOUR IDEA TO SEE IF YOU HAVE A WINNER!$

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