To patent an invention, an inventor must submit an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As of February 2015, applicants must ensure that no similar patent exists, choose a patent type, pay the fees, submit the application and work with an examiner to complete the process.
To secure a patent, an inventor needs to determine whether the invention can be patented. Some creations, including works of art and machines that are not useful, do not qualify for patents. If the product is suitable, the inventor must run a search of all domestic and foreign patents and public disclosures to reduce the chance of duplication. A patent attorney may be necessary during this process.
Inventors are required to select a utility, design or plant patent. The process is different for each category, and the USPTO recommends that individuals create an application strategy that includes deadlines, photographs, drawings, required forms, fees and other documentation. Patent applications are long and complex, and a patent attorney can help ensure accuracy on the first try.
After the initial application submission, a patent examiner may require additional changes or interviews. When the examiner is satisfied, he will approve the patent. At that point, the inventor must pay the issue and publication fee to receive certifying documentation.