What is a patent and why do you need it?

Patent law is an area of the law that can seem shrouded in mystery.   Even a basic knowledge of patents and their implications can be hugely beneficial to an entrepreneur or inventor.

IP attorney Raz Messerian describes a patent as a "sword" and not a "shield" in protecting your idea.  A patent gives one the right to stop others from making or selling or using a patented invention or process. It doesn't protect you or give you the right to make something.

If you value your invention and want to create a monopoly for yourself, then you should absolutely get your idea patented.  Having a patent does not necessarily provide complete protection from others infringing on your ideas or process.  Having a patent gives you the right to stop those that may try to infringe on your idea.

There are two different types of patents that you should concern yourself with: design and utility.

Utility patents protect the way something works.  On the other hand, a design patent protects the look, feel, and aesthetics of something.

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Types of Patent Applications

After you've decided what kind of patent you want and what is best for your particular invention, you should consider what kind of patent application you would like to file.  There are two types of patent applications: provisional and non-provisional.

A non-provisional application is the "real deal" application.  You must file this if your ultimate goal is to get a patent.  It discloses the bells and whistles of your invention.

By contrast, the provisional application is an optional step.  The provisional application never issues into a patent.  If you are already sure that you absolutely want your idea to get patented, there is no point for you to file a provisional patent application.

The purpose of a provisional application is to save your place in line.  It is relatively short and bare-boned, relatively inexpensive, buys you time and serves as official proof, as of the filing date, that you are the inventor.  You can now safely go out and market your idea, disclose it to the world.  You no longer have to worry about protection of your idea.

Patent Office's Process

A non-provisional patent application is ultimately picked up and is read through by an examiner, scrutinized, and hopefully one day turns into a patent.  A provisional patent is like an "egg" incubating and no one actually picks it up.  Half of the people that file provisional applications never actually goes through to pursue the idea.

You have one year from the date you publicly disclose your product to file for a patent in the United States. The U.S. uses the "first-to-file" standard for determining the true inventor of a product, so that means you'll want to have your application submitted as soon as you can.

Just because your patent application is pending does not mean you should sit idle.  Develop a name for yourself. Become the household name or brand for your product, especially in the tech industry.  Sometimes it may take about three years to get a patent granted, so you will want to work on building your business and brand while the Patent Office processes your application.

If you need guidance on patents, we recommend you contact Attorney Raz Messerian with Loza & Loza. Raz has worked at one of the nation’s largest intellectual property law firms and represented many clients of various sizes: from Fortune 500 companies to solo inventors.

Hopefully, you now understand the importance of and the process behind patents.  Be sure to thoroughly research patents and the application process before moving forward to determine if filing for a patent is truly the right path for you.

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