How to get a patent
Acquiring a patent is not easy, or cheap, and it's not always necessary. But it can be an extremely useful legal asset if you have an innovation worth protecting. So if you still want to know how to get a patent, here are a few preliminary considerations:
• Firstly, as we said above you need to be sure that a patent is a) necessary and b) viable. Considering how much time and trouble it takes to get the patent, you don't want to have your application declined or realize halfway through that you don't need it. There are three basic criteria for patentability: usefulness, novelty, and innovation. The last one is the most complex - would your invention be obvious to someone with a reasonable level of technical skill in your field? If the answer is no, you are through the first three hoops.
• BUT you'll want to check those hoops with someone else. Legal advice is virtually essential for patent applications - the experts know best how to get a patent. There are all sorts of things which can only be done properly and/or thoroughly by someone with professional expertise, including checking, in some instances, whether you are legally entitled to claim the idea as yours (e.g. were you working for anyone else when you came up with it? Did you work on it with anyone else?).
• This is the next possible step is a patent search. This is systematic research to determine whether your invention really is new or whether it has already been patented or made public. It's not essential but it may well save you money in the long run if there's any possibility that your idea may not be wholly new. Again, you can employ someone with professional expertise to do this for you or help you with it.
• Your patent lawyer or agent will also help you prepare the application. It's best to have a lawyer to write the legal claims of the patent for you - they will know how to word it to stave off any potential infringement. They will also take you through the application process, which, as mentioned before, could be a matter of years. Once the application is filed, though, you have priority on the invention.
• Eventually, the application will be examined. There's a right to appeal if the patent is not granted, but if everything has been done carefully up till now that shouldn't be likely. Good luck!
For more detailed information on how to get a patent, after you've looked at this site consider checking the US patent office site at www.uspto.gov or the World Industrial Property Organization site at www.wipo.int. These are just a couple of sources of information - there's a great deal of literature on the subject which should also list other internet resources.