If you have a patentable invention, filing a provisional patent application can provide temporary protection of your intellectual property rights while you develop your idea further or seek funding. Provisional applications have a lower fee than non-provisional applications -- and you don't have to make formal claims or provide the same level of detail about your invention. Additionally, provisional applicants don't have to wait for the USPTO to examine the contents of the application. Your provisional application is valid 12 months from the date you file it -- and you can use the phrase "patent pending" in connection with your invention during that time.What Does Useful Mean?
The patent law specifies that inventions must be useful, which means have a useful purpose. Being useful also includes operativeness, meaning that an invention must operate or perform its intended purpose.How Much Does It Cost For a Patent?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) establishes fees for patenting unique, non-obvious inventions. Because there are different types of patents, these fees vary, depending on those due at the time of the initial application and during the maintenance intervals required during a patent's 20-year life. A filing fee, search fee and examination fee are due with an initial application. Patent applications with more than 3 claims are subject to additional charges. It is important to note that fee structures are not static. The below represent the USPTO 2009 fee schedule and apply to patents filed on or after December 8, 2004. Initial Filing Fee - The initial filing fee for a utility patient is $330. Initial filing fees for design and plant patents are $220. Patent Search Fees - The search fee is $540 for a utility patent; $100 for a design patent; and $330 for a plant patent. Patent Examination Fees - The examination fee is $220 for a utility patent; $140 for a design patent; and $170 for a plant patent. Patent Maintenance Fees - The maintenance fee for patents is $980 at the 3.5-year interval; $2,480 at the 7.5-year interval; and $4,110 at the 11.5-year interval. Other Applicable Fees - Other fees may be necessary during the prosecution of a patent and the patent's 20-year term. These may include extension of time fees, post-issuance fees, financial service (administrative) fees and trademark processing fees. Additional fees will be incurred if a patent application needs to be appealed. Fees for Additional Claims - If a patent application contains more than 3 claims, an additional $220 is charged (per claim). The cost of more than 10 claims is $52 per claim.How to Conduct a Patent Search
To get a basic understanding of patent searches read Searching For Students and in particular read Searching Using Key Words . It was written for students; however, if you can look past the cute language it will quickly get you reading and searching patents online within minutes. It will not be enough to do a diligent (complete) search for prior art by only using the Internet. For that you would need to understand the patent classification system and be prepared to do days or even weeks of research.Patenting and USPTO Patent Applications - What is a patent? What kinds of patents are there? What is the USPTO?
Some people may confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities, they are different and serve different purposes. Read What Do I Need? or Understanding Intellectual Property if you need to understand the differences better. Patents and trademarks are both issued by the USPTO.