Has someone else already done this?
As an inventor, one of your first thoughts when you come up with the Mother of All Ideas is probably, Has someone else already done this? The only way to know for sure if you're the first is through a patent search. The search will tell you if your idea has been patented already and, if so, whether the patent is still in force. Here's how you do it.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 Main Reason Why
You have to do (or hire someone else to do) a patent search before investing in the cost of patenting . Even if you hire someone else to do the patent search for you and that is highly recommended for beginners - do a preliminary search yourself and bring that research to the intellectual property attorney or agent that you hire . Doing so will save you money, plus provide the other benefits mentioned above.The Joys of Conducting a Patent Search
A patent search involves searching different databases to see if your idea has already been patented, to know if you can patent your idea. The results of a good patent search should reveal any identical, similar, or partially similar inventions to the one you might patent. As a bonus, viewing and reading already issued patents will: help you to write your patent application, help you understand your competition, help you avoid patent infringement, help you learn more about your field of inventionDirect-Hire Professional Search
If you want to save lawyer fees and mark-ups, consider going directly to a patent search firm. Searchers are best found through inventor grapevines, inventor associations, or university intellectual property departments. In larger cities, you can also check the Yellow Pages under "patent searchers." But be careful not to fall into a trap set by some disreputable invention marketing organizations. They list themselves in the phone book under "patent searchers" with a toll-free number. This is another way they hook unsuspecting inventors into service contracts. Get all the facts up front. Some reputable searchers ask for money up front if they don't know you. This is understandable. Just be sure you get the cost of the search beforehand, and get—and check—references. The cost to search a utility patent in the Washington, D.C., area runs between $500 and $1,000. It is roughly $100 per hour for a competent search. Once the search has been completed, if you want to obtain an opinion on the patentability of your invention, add the cost of your lawyer. If you need to show a prospective licensee that your invention has a good shot at a patent or that it's unlikely to infringe on an existing product, a letter from competent patent counsel may do the trick.