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How to Patent an Idea or Invention

Located in Portland, Oregon, Baumgartner Patent Law provides patent attorney services worldwide

Overview - how to patent an idea or invention

Protecting an idea or an invention with a patent is an important investment. Free and low cost patent services may jeopardize your invention. The motto "You get what you pay for" is true, especially when protecting a potentially valuable invention. To fully protect your invention, it is important that several important areas are adequately addressed. While an inventor can prepare, file, and prosecute their invention before the USPTO, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a patent professional, such as a registered patent agent or a patent attorney. They can better assist you with the important steps of the idea or invention patent process. These include:

Contact Us
For a free consultation regarding filing a patent application, please use our contact form or contact our registered patent application attorney Marc Baumgartner at 503-546-3452 (Portland, Oregon) or toll free at 877-734-8669.

Documenting your invention

Most inventors are hesitant to describe in detail how their invention works- this might cause you to lose your patent rights. However, when filing a patent application, you must describe each feature in detail. Your patent will only cover what you disclose. So, contrary to common sense, an inventor must disclose everything about their invention to the USPTO. Patent applications are kept confidential until 18 months from the earliest filing date. Anything not disclosed in your patent application will not be included in a granted patent. It is thus vitally important to fully disclose all information about your invention, including its background, its features, its improvements, and other aspects.

One good way to do this is to keep an invention notebook. Write all of your ideas in the notebook, making sure to sign and date each page. A good invention notebook has consecutively numbered pages and does not allow the removal or insertion of pages. Be sure to write about each and every modification of your invention that you can think of.

Be sure to include drawings of your invention- a picture is worth a thousand words, and you will eventually need to include drawings of your invention with your patent application. Include brief descriptions referring specifically to your invention.

While it is important to keep the features of your invention secret before filing a patent application, it is a good idea to have a witness, such as a trusted co-worker, a family member, or a close friend, sign and date your invention notebook. The witness should have an understanding of what your invention discloses. Do not show others your inventions. Public display of your invention, before filing a patent application, can later be used against the validity of your invention.

Once you believe you have a new invention, prepare an invention disclosure report. An invention disclosure report summarizes the findings in your invention notebook. Outline each aspect of your invention explaining how to make and use your invention. This invention disclosure report will be used to write a first draft of your patent application.

The USPTO offers a Disclosure Document Program or (DDP) under which it will accept invention disclosures and holds them for two years. Inventors can use this service to prove the date of conception and the reduction to practice of the invention and to also prove they are the actual inventor. The USPTO charges a small fee ($10) for filing the DDP. Because of the USPTO paperwork involved, and the fact that DDPs are not admissible in trial (witness testimony is) it is generally not recommend to file one. Another disadvantage of a DDP is that it starts a 2 year clock for filing your patent application. After this period the DDP is destroyed.

Contact Us
For a free consultation regarding filing a patent application, please use our contact form or contact our registered patent application attorney Marc Baumgartner at 503-546-3452 (Portland, Oregon) or toll free at 877-734-8669.

Conducting a patent search

To obtain a patent, your invention needs to be novel (a new idea). The best way to determine if your invention is novel is to conduct a patent search. A free patent search, of issued patents and published patent applications, can be conducted through the USPTO's website. Additionally, patent attorneys can conduct wider patent searches through patent databases. These patent searches can include patents from around the world.

Filing a patent application

Meet with a patent professional, such as a patent attorney, to discuss the right type of patent application for you. There are four types of patent applications available in the U.S.: provisional patent application, utility patent application, design patent application, and plant patent application. A patent professional can discuss the pros and cons of the four patent applications, and decide which type is best for you.

A provisional patent application allows the inventor to file a document describing all aspects of their invention. A provisional patent application does not require claims and does not require a strict form, as is required for a utility patent application, but it will never issue into a patent. The USPTO filing fees are significantly lower for a provisional patent application than other patent applications. A provisional patent application may be preferred when the inventor requires extra time for experimentation, or money to invest in the invention. If you file a provisional patent application, you must file a regular utility patent application within one (1) year to claim the benefit of filing date of the provisional patent application filing date.

A utility patent application, also called a non-provisional application, is the most common type of patent and is appropriate for .new and useful compositions, manufactures, and methods.  The invention must be new, useful and nonobvious. A utility patent application has a required formal format and contains claims which define the scope of your invention. It is recommended to utilize a patent professional when preparing and filing a utility patent application, as "one word" can substantially limit your entire patent.

A design patent application is used to protect the ornamentation of a device as opposed to its functionality. Choosing a design patent application may be the best way to protect how an item looks.

A plant patent application is for asexually reproducible plants.

Once a patent application has been filed, it is recommended to mark your invention as "patent pending."

International patent application- The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

A United States patents will only allow you to exclude others in the United States from making, using selling and offering to sell your invention. If you want exclusive protection in countries and regions outside the United States you can claim priority back to your originally filed United States patent. For example, it is possible to file a Paris Convention priority application in other countries within 1 year from the filing date in the U.S. Additionally, a patent application can be filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) within 1 year from the filing date in the U.S. Both a Paris Convention priority application and a PCT patent application can claim the benefit of the filing date in the U.S. This is called a "priority date," and if your foreign patent is later granted, the earlier filing date in the U.S. will be used to determine when your exclusive patent rights begin. The priority date can help exclude prior art that was published after filing your U.S. application and before filing your international patent application. A Paris Convention priority patent application is filed directly in foreign countries, and is immediately examined by the national patent office. A PCT patent application is delayed for some time in an international examination process. You can later enter into many countries for a lower price. Most law firms charge an hourly rate for preparing a PCT application (plus a variable USPTO filing fee) from a complete utility patent application- the price depends upon the length and complexity of the original application. The cost of filing a PCT patent application from a provisional application will vary depending upon the extent of the provisional patent application.

Patent prosecution (review by the USPTO & responding to patent office actions)

The USPTO rarely grants a patent solely upon the filed patent application. Instead, your patent application will likely be rejected for one or more reasons. These are provided in communication from the USPTO called an Office Action. There are many reasons why a patent application is rejected, such as improper disclosure of the invention, improper figures, or issues with existing patents (called "prior art.") Our patent law firm has experience responding to a variety of patent office actions for diverse technologies, and can often assist you in overcoming USPTO rejections. It is important to note that any document submitted to the USPTO becomes part of the record for your patent application. The USPTO may use your response against you. Working closely with a patent professional, such as a patent attorney with our law firm, will often be beneficial. The rates for responding to patent office actions should vary depending on the invention, the rejections raised by the USPTO, and the time allowed before responding to the office action (filing a response earlier is less expensive).

Allowance and issue

Once you have satisfactorily overcome all of the objections raised by the USPTO, your patent application is allowed. Upon payment of the proper fees, your patent will be issued. It will be published, and you will receive an official ribbon-sealed copy.


An issued utility or plant patent in the U.S. is valid for 20 years from the earliest filing date and a design patent is valid for 14 years. Maintenance fees are due to keep the patent valid and in force. Lack of payment of these fees will cause the patent to lapse.


Contact Us
For a free consultation regarding filing a patent application, please use our contact form or contact our registered patent application attorney Marc Baumgartner at 503-546-3452 (Portland, Oregon) or toll free at 877-734-8669.

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Baumgartner Patent Law is located in Portland, Oregon.

The materials provided within this website are for general information, educational, and promotional purposes only. The law constantly evolves and there is no guarantee that the relevant changes have been noted herein. They are not intended as, and should not be taken as, legal advice. Individuals and entities having legal questions should consult with an attorney to fully address their legal matters based on an analysis of the particular facts. The attorney members of the firm are licensed to practice law in the state of California, and otherwise as noted. Please call us to obtain legal advice 877-734-8669.
5933 NE Win Sivers Dr. Suite 205 Portland OR, 97220