Patent Invention time line
How long will it take to get your invention patented? How long is a piece of string? The theoretical lifespan of a patent application is a year, but in practice it can take longer - even a lot longer - depending on the complexity of the case and how work logged the patent office is (answer: usually very). Generally, though, these are the things that you will need to consider in your invention time line. Specific times aren't given because, as mentioned above, it's not an exact science.
• Determine whether your invention is viable for a patent. a) Is it definitely yours (and not the shared work of others, or the legal property of an employer) and b) does it meet the patent criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness? A patent search may be necessary, which could take several months.
• Apply for the patent. Again, the length of time it will take to write the application is not an exact science, but the more careful and precise it is, the more likely you will be to have the patent granted. A lawyer will be a great, if not essential, asset to speed and accuracy. So will keeping notes and records throughout the invention process. If the invention is still in development, you can make a provisional application. This lasts for a year. You can also update your original filing with a continuation application if more detail or a revision is necessary.
• Here the invention time line slows down: it's time to wait. Under US law there are ways to speed up the application in certain special circumstances e.g. if you are over sixty five, proposing an ecologically advantageous innovation or - a unfortunate reason but a reason nonetheless - likely to die soon. You make the request when you apply (you can also request at this time not to have the patent published if and when it is granted). In fact, most applicants make a special request of one kind or another so you are at a disadvantage if you don't. This is something to talk to your patent lawyer or agent about (and another good reason to get one). In the meantime, you can make use of your invention while its details remain secret.
• During a period which could be as little as a few months or as much as a decade but is likely to be two or three years, your application will be processed and examined. You have the right to appeal a negative decision and the right to discuss your application with the examiner during the examination process - doing the latter may well stave off the need to do the former. Finally, if all goes well, your patent will be granted - the end of the invention time line.