How to Find Out if Your Invention Idea is Already Patented
If you have an idea for an invention, before you patent it you should check to see if it's already been invented by some other inventor in the past. Though actually, whether or not it's been invented, what you'll want to do is find out whether it's been patented before with the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office). Here you'll learn how to search patents to find out if your invention idea is already patented or if you should redirect your brainstorming to another invention idea. Have a question? Get an answer from a lawyer now!Why is classification so important?
While it is possible to search patents using keywords, the best way to conduct a comprehensive patent search is by classification. Classification helps bring together similar devices and concepts, even when different terms have been used to describe them. When a device is truly new, terminology is not set. For example, before personal computers a mouse was nothing more than a rodent. The inventor of the first "Computer Input and Display Control" would not have found related devices by searching the keyword "mouse." A classification is used both as a tool for finding patents (patentability searches), and for assisting in the assignment of patent applications to examiners for examination purposes. Classifications have definitions. Classifications have hierarchical relationships to one another.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.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.The Do-It-Yourself Patent Search
If you decide to do the patent search yourself, you have several search methods available: The USPTO (United States Patent Trade Office) Public Search Facility. The USPTO operates a Patent Public Search Facility located in Alexandria, Virginia. Here every U.S. patent granted since 1790 may be searched and examined. Many inventors like to make at least one pilgrimage to the Patent Public Search Facility. It's located fewer than 15 minutes from National Airport by taxi; Metro Rail serves it off the Blue and Yellow lines, King Street Station; and several hotels are within walking distance, so it's easy to get to and around.