For most inventors, a utility patent that protects the function of an item is the most powerful patent protection they can get. Unfortunately, utility patent applications are also the most expensive type of patent application, take the longest to get examined, and have the lowest chance of success. How can you stack the odds of success in your favor? Pay attention to this video and also see the video in Prior Art Searches.
What are the odds of success for utility patent applications? Over the past decade the odds of success on a utility patent application have varied from a high around 70% to a low around 40%. Right now the odds appear to be pretty close to 50/50.
How much does a utility patent application cost?
At our firm, we do fixed prices, start to finish, for preparing and filing utility patent applications. These range from around $6,500 for simple mechanical to over $10,000 for more complex electrical and software.
Is there a more cost effective way to do it?
You can file a Provisional Patent Application (see our video on Provisional Patent Applications) for about half the cost of a utility patent application, which gives you patent pending status for one year. However, there are a few Achilles’ Heels with Provisional Applications that you need to avoid.
How long do Utility Patents last?
If you are fortunate enough to get your Utility Patent Application allowed by the USPTO as an issued patent, most Utility Patents are good from 20 years from the date of filing, so an average patent application (not a continuation application) has a useful life of around 17 years.
Only 17 years? My invention is way too valuable to protect for only 17 years!
Think again, 50% of all retail money generated is made from products two years old or less. If you are the proverbial average inventor, you have around 5 years to make money on your invention; beyond that it is likely that competitive products and technologies will surpass your invention and it will not make much money, so don’t worry so much about when your patent will expire, and instead focus your attention on how to make money off your invention during the first five years. (If, however, you were the inventor of the light bulb, hula hoop or internal combustion engine, you will be truly bummed out when your patent expires, but these were not “average” inventions).
Are Utility Patents renewable?
No. Once a patent expires anyone can use your patent as a blueprint to make your invention and sell it, without compensating you. Then again, hopefully you have used Trademarks (link to Trademark video) to build up a strong brand so that even if others can copy your invention, people will want to buy YOUR product over your competitors’ products.
Patent Reform Act: A Brief Guide for the Small Business Inventor
The Smith-Leahy Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on September 16, 2011, but since then there has been a lot of confusion over how it will impact the solo inventor and small businesses. While no piece of Congressional legislation can be fully and accurately assessed for several years after its passage – during which numerous lawsuits will be appealed to higher courts which will determine in published opinions what the various parts of the new law “really mean” – there are some quick takeaways that are becoming apparent from the “America Invents Act” or “AIA”.
Will changing from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” allow “big companies” to rip-off small inventors?
This is a concern I hear frequently (from small inventors). I don’t think it will change things much. Under the old system, there were ways that “first” inventors who could prove that they invented a particular invention before a “second” person, where the second person filed a patent application on the invention first, and could be awarded the patent even though they were the second to file. This system appears not to have worked well, with very few of the cases brought under this law resolved in favor of the person who claimed to be the first to invent and yet was second to file a patent application.
I don’t think the new law will have that much of an impact. First, even under the old law very few “first to invent but second to file” applicants won their cases. Second, with provisional patent applications there is really not much of an excuse for small inventors to not file for provisional protection before they pitch their product to the big company they fear will rip them off.
As an aside, I think that inventors all over the world benefit from harmonized patent laws. Most of the rest of the world, or at least the important countries in terms of patent protection, work under a “first to file” law, so I see a general improvement in everyone working under the same set of rules.
“First to File” officially goes into effect on March 16, 2013.
What about the “Micro-Inventor”?
This is a provision that will, in the future, allow some solo inventors, universities, and inventors who have to assign their patent rights to universitiesto get a further discount below the already low fees for “small entities”. However, the qualifications to file as a micro-entity are fairly complicated, and considering that you can lose your patent in some cases if you claim a “smaller” status that you should, it will be safer to file as a small entity if you have any doubts.
Registered Trademark issued to ICIP Client Francine Mathy, Owner of College App Attack