The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

How To Patent Your Idea

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If you have a good idea for a new product or service that you believe could make you some money, patent lawyers would suggest that you file a patent for the idea before someone else comes up with it or takes it for their own. A patent is a legal document with exact design specifications that details your idea and gives you the sole right of ownership to produce, provide or otherwise use it to do business.

Research Your Field

The first step to patenting your idea is to do research and see if anybody else has come up with your idea first. Patents are published online at the U.S. Patent Office website, or you can do it in person at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in your state. This will determine the scope of your patent.

If you find patents that use elements of your idea, you may only be able to patent part of your idea. You are only allowed to patent elements of your idea that are unique. If your idea is just a faster or more efficient way to implement an already-existing process, you can’t file a patent on the entire process; you can only patent your change to the process.

Finding a Patent Lawyer

You will need to get a patent lawyer specializing in your field if you want to have a good chance of succeeding with your application. The lawyer will work with you to draft a patent application, which is a highly technical document explaining the structure and purpose of your design. This document will include:

  • Prior inventions or patents relevant to your idea
  • A brief summary of your idea
  • The “preferred embodiment” detailing the idea’s practical application for your business plan, factory setting, service model or other purpose
  • Claims providing the legal description of your idea, written to describe exactly what your invention does, how it works and any materials, mechanisms or designs used in its creation
  • Drawings and diagrams to support claims and applications

Filing With the Patent Office

The last step to patenting your idea is to file it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You may send your patent by mail or deliver it in person. It typically takes several weeks to several months to hear back from the patent office, and your patent will most likely be rejected. Then begins the process of making amendments and resubmitting the application until it is accepted.

Once the patent has been accepted, you may begin marketing your idea with the label of “patent pending.”


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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