how to check if an idea has been patented
There is no EASY way. If your invention is a new can opener, an existing patent for the same idea may never use the words can opener. For example, it may be described in broader terms: container de-sealer or metal wall scissor. The patent offices classification system helps a bit, but not much. Inventors tend not to want to find their invention, so, they type in --can opener-- and look at a few and say they couldn't find it. You have to look for it like you want to find it. try different search terms. when you find one thats close, look at the references cited in that application and look for other patents wherein the close one was cited.Non-Provisional Application
Although you can convert a provisional application into a non-provisional application, the USPTO recommends filing a separate non-provisional application that references the earlier provisional one. Doing so can extend the time your invention is protected by up to one year. A non-provisional application includes a lengthy written document with a description of your invention and all the things you claim you invented, as well as drawings, an oath or declaration and fees for the filing, research and examination of the application. The USPTO recommends using a registered patent attorney to draft and file your non-provisional application. USPTO regulations include specific requirements for the format of applications and the necessary drawings -- and examiners reject applications that don't meet these requirements.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.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.Patent Attorney Directed Search
Going through a lawyer to search patents will cost the least amount of time and the most money. Patent attorneys employ professional researchers. You hire the attorney, and the attorney gets someone to conduct the search. Then the attorney adds a mark-up to the search bill, sometimes as much as several hundred percent. Many lawyers cloak this in the term handling fee. To save this extra expense, some inventors hire their own researcher or do the search themselves. Most patent attorneys don't render an opinion based on a search conducted by anyone other than their own searcher. However, you can tell a lawyer that if they won't accept the work of your search firm, or searches done by yourself, you will go elsewhere where such work would be acceptable. If you're paying the bills, and you're willing to take the risk, the lawyer shouldn't have a problem. Now, if the search results show no prior art in my field of invention, you don't need an attorney to tell me the coast is clear. Conversely, if a search reveals prior art that's spot on your invention, you don't need an attorney to tell me my idea has been done before. You might, on the other hand, hire an attorney to help end-run an existing patent through the use of language in the application. If you hire a lawyer, get a quote in advance. The fee will be based on how all-encompassing you want the search to be.