Writing a successful patent application
Your patent application is your chance to tell the examiners why you deserve this special privilege. Hence it's pretty much as important as the quality of the invention itself in terms of whether or not you get the patent. Here are some points to bear in mind:
• There are different types of patent application but they all have basic components in common - a description of the invention and the claims. The most common kind of application in the US is for a utility patent.
• A utility patent is comprised of an abstract (a broad indication of what the invention is); the field of invention (the area of science or technology it relates to); the background of the invention (how and why you came up with it); the description of the preferred embodiment of the invention (how best to make it); and the claims.
• The claims are the most important part of any application because they define it legally. That's to say it's the bit which tells other people what they cannot do, and hence it's the bit that any litigation is based on. Although you will probably have most of the input into the rest of the application, it's highly recommended that you get an intellectual property lawyer to draw up your claims. Any infringer will be looking for a way to get around your patent, if you are granted one, and the language of the claims needs to be very carefully worded. The more comprehensive and wide ranging it is, the more difficult it is to wriggle out of it.
• You can under US law request to discuss your patent application in person with the examiner at any point during its examination. The opportunity to explain your argument face to face can be a major asset to your chances of having the patent granted.
• If you are confident that you will need a patent but are not sure what form your invention will finally take, you can make a provisional application. This gives you one year from the date of filing (which is when you send it off, not when they receive it) to formalize your application. It gives you the same legal priority over other inventors as a full application would, but is a fraction of the cost and can be updated - for an extra fee - throughout the year.