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.The Three Different Types of Patents Issued By The USPTO
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents a useful process, a machine, an article of manufacture, or a composition of matter. Examples: fiber optics, computer hardware, or medications. Utility patent can be provisional or non-provisional. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Examples: the look of an athletic shoe, a bicycle helmet, and the Star Wars characters. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants. Examples: Hybrid tea roses, Silver Queen corn, Better Boy tomatoesTypical Filing Fees for an Independent Inventor
$625 - $825 for the filing fee with no more than 3 claims, which is non-refundable whether or not a patent is granted. This is the fee to have your application "examined" by the USPTO and your patent application may be rejected.Meaning of Novel, Nonobvious, and Useful
New and Novel: For a United States patent the invention must never have been made public in any way, anywhere in the world, a year before the date on which an application for a patent is filed. Original and Nonobvious: An invention involves an inventive step if, when compared with what is already known, it would not be obvious to someone with a good knowledge and experience of the subject, for example, if you just make cosmetic changes that is obvious. Useful: This means that the invention must take the practical form of an apparatus or device, it has to do something.USPTO Fees
The USPTO charges fees at every step of the patent process and these fees are the only fixed cost in the process. The USPTO charges a required $330 to file an application, $540 for a search, $220 for an examination, $1,510 to issue the patent if it passes the examination, plus $7,750 in maintenance fees over the 20 years that the patent is in force. Hence, the total to file and go through the process is $1,090, but the total to receive the patent and keep it in force is $10,350. Note that independent inventors and small businesses receive a 50 percent discount on fees but that the USPTO charges more for extra or late paperwork.