Have you invented something? You might want to read this.
How can I get a utility patent?
The official way to get patent rights is to file a patent application, which describes and shows how to make and use your invention, with the USPTO - the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
After that, the Office will look at your application, or "examine" it, and decide if your invention gets a patent or not. The two main criteria they use are: (1) whether it's been invented already, and (2) whether it's an obvious combination of two or more things that have been invented already.
These two criteria are called "novelty" and "non-obviousness." There are other requirements too, but those two are the ones that inventors should focus on the most.
What's "patent prosecution"? I keep hearing that term.
The word "prosecute" means "to chase." So, you've heard of criminal prosecution - that's when the government is going after criminals. As for "patent prosecution," that's something different. That's you, the inventor, chasing after a patent! It refers to the process of applying for a patent, and it includes filing your application, replying to first-round rejections, the appeals process, and pretty much whatever else it takes.
Oh, I thought it meant that they're trying to prosecute me for copying someone else's invention.
I know, right? (Everyone else thinks that also. Don't sweat it.) Nobody ever gets criminally prosecuted for infringing a patent. What it does mean, though, is that whoever owns the patent has grounds to sue the infringer in court. That's the value of having your invention patented.
So what kinds of things are eligible for patent protection?
If you've invented a new and useful machine, composition of matter, article of manufacture, or process/method, you should look into applying for a patent because those are the official categories of patent-eligible subject matter.
What's a provisional patent?
Careful - there's no such thing as a provisional patent. It's a provisional patent application.
It looks very similar to a regular patent application, but its only job is to "hold your place in line." It's a relatively cheap and quick way to get a document containing your invention on file with the government and, as such, to prove when you invented it.
Remember that if you have an earlier filing date, you're protected from other people filing an identical invention with the USPTO later. You'll be eligible to get the patent instead of them.
Once your provisional application is on file, it lasts for one year. A lot of inventors choose to file a provisional, and then before it expires, they raise enough money for a regular utility patent filing.
The downside is your provisional application won't be looked at, or examined, and it won't turn into a patent, unless you file a regular application within twelve months. It also delays when your patent protection starts, and it means paying fees twice instead of just once. The upside is, it gives you a cheaper entry-level step, and it buys you some time that you can spend gathering the money and other resources that you'll need to go through a full filing-and-prosecution process.
Are there governmental filing fees?
There are. You can find the official fee schedule on the USPTO's web site - here's the latest one. Scroll down to see them all - there's a lot of them, aren't there?
How come the USPTO charges so many fees?
It's because they don't get any taxpayer funding. They need to pay the bills and keep the lights on somehow, and the way they've chosen to do that is by charging fees for pretty much everything.
They're not funded by taxpayers? They're a government agency!
It's rare, but it happens. The U.S. Postal Service doesn't get taxpayer money either.
Anything I can do about all the fees?
You might qualify as a "small entity" or a "micro entity", depending on whether you meet the legal requirements, and if so then the fees they'll charge will be much smaller. Read about the small entity requirements here and the micro entity requirements here (you can also discuss it with us and we'll help you figure it out).
What kinds of technologies can Spectrum help get patents on?
Computer hardware, computer software, cybersecurity, biotechnology, networking, telecommunications, chemical patents, mechanical gadgets, medical devices, things like that.
If you see something you like in that list, feel free to drop us a line.