A patent is a type of property right that gives the patent holder the right, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing into the United States the subject matter that is within the scope of protection granted by the patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) determines whether a patent should be granted in a particular case. However, it is up to the patent holder to enforce his or her own rights if the USPTO does grant a patent.
There are three types of patents – utility, design, and plant. In addition, there are two types of utility and plant patent applications – provisional and nonprovisional. A provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention which can be claimed in a later filed nonprovisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned twelve months after its filing date and is not examined. An applicant who decides to initially file a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application during the twelve-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier provisional application filing. A nonprovisional application is examined by a patent examiner and may be issued as a patent if all the requirements for patentability are met. Each year the USPTO receives approximately 500,000 patent applications. Most of the applications filed with the USPTO are nonprovisional applications for utility patents.
The links and articles included on this website are provided to assist an inventor with ultimately filing a nonprovisional utility patent application. It specifies the required parts of the utility patent application and identifies some of the forms may be used by an applicant (which are available on the USPTO’s website). This information is generally derived from patent laws and regulations found in Title 35 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) and Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These materials, as well as the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), are available at the USPTO’s website, at the Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs), and at most law libraries.
The patent process is generally divided into a number of smaller processes that create a basic timeline from conception to patent. Not all of the steps in the patent timeline may be required, and an inventor’s timeline may differ depending on his or her specific needs. The process is summarized below, with a more detailed explanation being accessible by clicking on the title of each step in the process.