4. Non-Provisional Patent Application: This application is a formal presentation of invention to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It contains a backdrop for the invention, establishes the need for the invention, and discloses what aspects of the invention are new (the claims made by your invention). The application contains technical drawings of the invention from relevant perspectives and copies of the patents you cite as prior art.
The Patent Office site has some very useful sections now if you are doing your own patent applications (Guide to Filing a Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application), but personally, I recommend using a patent attorney, if you have the resources.
Like most things in life, decisions on how to proceed with an invention are not cut and dry. In this case, as most, you need to research each course of action thoroughly.
I’d like to stress here that every inventor’s situation is different. A factor on my list might be a minus, which for you could be a plus; my plus could be your minus. For example, I may consider that pursuing a full blown patent application that may cost as much as $15,000 to $20,000 a minus, because I don’t have that much money and because I don’t want to look for outside funding, and because… (“yada, yada, yada”). Maybe some of you have those resources readily available and think the cost factor is a plus. Some of may have a lot of time to devote to the realization of your invention; others can only afford to have remote involved with its development. There is not, in my opinion, a one-size fits all answer.
My concern that you be thoughtful in your deliberations comes from my own experience, particularly the times when I acted on what was presented to me rather than looking for opportunities that could lead to greater success. In my next column, I will present some specific factors to "weigh in" on your pro and con scales.
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For more advice and information, make sure to check out our section Invention Information Guide for Inventors. Myra Per-Lee