Q: “HOW do I get a patent for an idea that I have come up with.”
A, strictest, least useful: “file an application for a patent.”
A, a little better: “file an application for a patent, pay fees, promptly reply to communications from the USPTO, be ready to adjust the scope of your claimed invention if the USPTO rejects it, be ready to pay fees for recording documents, have the patent issue, and numerous other fees for different filings at the patent office.”
WRITE GENERIC DESCRIPTION
A, exhaust-ive, for actually doing the process yourself, and completely lacking in all of the other things not covered by just getting the patent..:
I. steps you’ll be doing:
1. Write down the most general, plain-speak, broadest definition of the thing you have invented, leaving out specific nifty details of any particular, narrow, embodiment you are most excited about. It might blind you to the outer extents of what you’ve really invented. The importance of doing this step before searching should not be underestimated. Invention comes from inspiration, but it is made valuable by actually having a practice-able invention. If you search before this step, discovering other inventions may dissuade you from the thing you intend to make or develop, or it may contort the notion of what your patented invention should be. You neither want to practice an invention that you cannot patent nor should you attempt to patent an invention you do not know that you can practice. Having recited what you believe your invention is, first, makes it easier to see whether or not your notion really has been anticipated.
SEARCH AND NARROW
“[H]ow do I get a patent for an idea I came up with[?]”
2. Search internet, forums, industry journals, retailers, libraries, etc., to discover anything that might have existed which might encompass that broadest definition.
3. Rewrite the definition of your invention so as to avoid attempting to patent the overlapping parts of your invention that were anticipated (or rendered obvious) by the prior art you discovered. That broadest, almost nakedly-general-when-compared-to-a-specific-embodiment-you-intend-to-patent, but which you believe you still have a right to claim, could be the basis of a first claim.
4. Now write, incrementally, the specific, narrowing aspects of your actual invention, working down from the broadest claim. Attempt to arrange them hierarchically. These ought to each allow you to craft dependent claims.
5. re-read all of the statements you have written. They should generally all be significantly broader than the thing you are making. If they aren’t, then you may risk obtaining a patent that fails to provide protection because some small variation from your product may also vary enough to evade the scope of your patent, and your monopoly would be thwarted.
PARTS OF THE SPECIFICATION
6. Now, from the perspective of your claimed invention, not your narrow embodiment sought to be practiced, write the following sections, and please excuse the lack of a more detailed explanation as to each of these for the sake of keeping this explanation to the academic explanation of what is strictly necessary to obtain a patent:
the field of the invention,
the background of the invention,
the summary of the invention,
….drawings…. this really requires explanation elsewhere as to how to produce sufficient “formal” drawings, and a
detailed description of the drawings
These things, with the addition of the claims, together comprise the components of the “specification.”
II. What your work has to manage surviving:
Having said all of that, here we go as to the tests your claimed invention must pass. HOW to get a patent (as someone filing on their own behalf, Pro Se, is accomplished by submission of a complete application for patent that meets these tests:
1. 35 USC 100- patentable subject matter
2. 35 USC 101- usefulness / utitility
3. 35 USC 102- novelty
4. 35 USC 103- nonobviousness
5. 35 USC 112- full disclosure, adequate description, to enable practicing the invention.
6. “complete application,” means 6 components: (see below, @ #6)
1. The answers about patenting an “idea,” address a failure to meet section 100. Ideas, or “abstract ideas,” are not patentable because they fall outside the categories of patentable subject matter: “process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter” (see: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2106.html). I can only assume that by “an idea,” you actually meant one of these things: process, machine, etc. If so, then you have cleared the first hurdle to obtaining a patent.
2. section 101- utility- In order to be patented, the claimed invention must be useful. Whenever someone attempts to teach this tenet of patent law, the conversation veers off toward the precedent about how something lacks utility where its claimed utility is impossible, such as by flying in the face of physics. Generally, that means perpetual motion machines. If your claimed invention resembles getting more energy out than putting in, then good luck to you sir. Otherwise, this is a fairly low bar to clear. In the process of explaining the background of the invention and the reasons why your invention betters or differs from the prior art, generally the point of your invention, its purpose and utility, should meet this standard. You do not have to explicitly state why your invention is useful if it can be understood from the text.
3. section 102- Novelty- Your claimed invention has to be an entirely new thing. This really is the critical test. You wouldn’t even think about filing a patent if you didn’t at least think you had a shot at claiming that you came up with something that hasn’t been done yet. If it can be shown that you are describing something that has been done, then your claimed invention is barred from receiving a patent. Your claimed invention has to describe something that has not been done before. Even by you. Under the latest rules, the only way that people in this world are allowed to know of the invention you are claiming, before you file for a patent, is by a “publication,” by you, the inventor, published no earlier than one year before you filed. That’s right. Don’t tell anyone who isn’t part of inventing the thing you are claiming, or is a person to whom owes you a duty of confidentiality. Talking about it on the internet, speaking in an interview for a national magazine, appearing at a convention open to the public and disseminating some notes, using it in view of the public… it’s all antedating references now. FILE. as soon as you know what your invention is. assuming you’ll need a patent. This is the quandary that really best justifies talking to a patent attorney. You have to decide whether to pursue it or not. If you do, then you really should file immediately.
4. Non-obviousness. You can think of this as the more versatile but less deadly version of novelty. If 102 is a cannon, 103 is an team of archers. Much more likely to get hit, but maybe you can get past it. An invention is obvious if a “person having ordinary skill in the art” (PHOSITA) would have known how to make or practice the claimed invention without having to learn of it or how to do it from your disclosure. This test is designed to snare attempts to claim inventions whose distinctions don’t really add to the realm of what is in the public domain. If a toy airplane covered with aluminum foil exists within the public domain, then making one with wings wrapped in foil gum wrappers is also known.
5. 112- adequate description. This part is hard to practice, but it is arguably less of an art than writing claims, because a solo inventor still likely knows his own invention inside and out, and can generally describe it, so long as he adheres to the format suggested by the patent office. You have to demonstrate that you possess the invention by describing it in full enough detail to legitimately claim you have such an invention. Since the government will be giving you monopoly protection for 20 years in exchange for your invention becoming part of the public domain at the end of that period, you have to hold up your end of the deal by disclosing how to make and practice the invention, so that when it expires, PHOSITA will actually be able to make and practice it. The depth of this disclosure must support the scope of the invention as described in the CLAIMS. So there is some room here to save some degree of disclosure as to the invention you intend to practice, inasmuch as that narrow embodiment of the claimed invention is well within the scope of the invention you have legitimately claimed, and adequately described at the broader scope claimed.
6. “complete application,” means 6 components:
“SCDFOT”- “spec, claim, drawing, fee, oath, translation,”
specification as described above, one or more claims, at least one drawing, filing- and whatever other- fees are asked of you, and an oath stating that you believe you are an original inventor of the claimed invention (no longer required to state”first and original,”). The translation requirement merely means that your application for patent must be in english.
Now that is a LOT to do. It can be done. By an individual. And this is a general way to describe HOW to do it. I tried to say as little as possible about WHETHER to do it yourself. You probably shouldn’t.
But what the heck. Here’s my take on whether to do it yourself, which turns out to be almost the same question as whether to do it at all:
[Continuing from sentence of the previous page: “But what the heck. Here’s my take on whether to do it yourself, which turns out to be almost the same question as whether to do it at all:” ]
We’re living in a world of big business for almost every product or process. You invented for the purpose of seeing it proliferate beyond the productivity of your own hands, right? If so, then did you intend to also become the mechanism of that enormous proliferation? If so, then you’ll be making movements in enormous amounts of money, and the amount of capital you’ll be seeking would be so large that paying someone else to get it right will absolutely be worth it.
If you didn’t intend to become the mechanism to see your idea proliferate, then don’t you think that you expected to license or assign the invention to an entity that could? If so, then why didn’t they pay for it? Did you shop it around? If it is all that valuable, then those large and powerful entities ought to want to buy it, and their costs of doing business based on your invention would then dwarf the cost of the representation and fees, making the cost of the representation affordable to the enterprise that would actually practice the invention.
SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY
So, ask yourself: Who would want to make this?
If it’s just you, then you’re right to question the expense. Because if it isn’t ever going to be practiced, then there’s not a whole lot of point to seeking a protected monopoly to practice it. And paying someone to get you a defensible monopoly on a business that won’t ever exist IS prohibitively expensive.
However, asking yourself who would want to make this only gets you your own opinion. Asking someone else is more valuable and reliable. Such as potential buyers, licensees, assignees or patent attorneys. And to ensure honest answers from such parties other than the patent attorneys, you really ought to have representation by a patent attorney