Saturday, August 21, 2010

Filing a provisional patent application online - Step by step instructions.

I just finished filing a provisional patent application online, and it was easy. It only cost a total of $110! Having just done it I thought I would present the step by step instructions about how to file your provisional patent application online.

For the provisional application to have any value it must be followed up within one year with a real patent application. I recently purchased a book about patenting your own patents, and as a result I decided to do this provisional patent myself and file it online. I would highly recommend that you get one of the many good books available and read it.

The book I read was “Patent It Yourself" by David Pressman. I bought the Kindle version but it is available here at Amazon in paperback as well as the Kindle version. Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office
A provisional patent application (PPA) is a short version of a patent application and is therefore much easier to write and file than a real patent application.

What you will need in order to file a provisional patent application online

1. A detailed description of the invention that describes how to build it and how to use it.

2. Drawings if needed to understand the description.

3. Cover sheet. (PTO Form SB/16)

4. Application datasheet (PTO Form SB/14)

5. $110 - You can pay by credit card if filing electronically

Detailed description of the invention

Since a provisional patent only requires a complete, clear, and concise specification or description of the invention and does not need to include such things as claims, background, and prior art disclosure all one really needs is that good detailed accurate description of the invention.

I'm not going to get into the details about how to write a good specification. The book I recommended does a very thorough job of that if you feel the need for expert advice.

Your detailed description should be written for someone of "ordinary skill in the art". That means that if you are working on an invention about a new kind of water pump for car engines, a car mechanic would certainly be someone of ordinary skill in the art. If you are inventing a new type of solar cell for producing electricity, then I would suspect an electrical engineer would be someone of ordinary skill in the art.

Drawings for the provisional patent application

The provisional application doesn't require formal drawings. You just have to be sure your drawings are clear and readable so that when the patent examiner reviews them he will be able to understand your invention.

Cover Sheet - PTO Form SB/16

The cover sheet is just a form you fill out. You can download a PDF form from the USPTO website, fill it out, and save it to send to the USPTO when you file.

Go to the USPTO site,

In the pull-down menu on the left side of the top navigation bar under "Patents" click on "Patent Forms". This takes you to the forms index page, and if you scroll down you will find all the forms. Click on the form you want to open it.

This link should take you directly to the cover sheet form. Download it and take a look. It's pretty simple. If you hold your curser over a blank it will often give you tips and suggestions about filling out that particular blank.

Application Data Sheet

The application data sheet is just another form you need to fill out. It's PTO Form SB/14. Here is a direct link:

Nothing difficult, just contact information and stuff like that.

Patent Filing Fees - The Money part

You can pay by credit card online, or mail a check, money order, or credit card info. I filed my provisional application, but when I tried to pay by credit card the USPTO website was down so I could not pay online at the time I filed. It turns out that if you are an unregistered user, which I was, you don't get another chance and have to send the money by mail. You might have a FAX option... I don't recall.

To pay by mail I had to fill out a Fee Transmittal Form, PTO SB/17

You mail a check and the form to the address at the bottom of the form.

Time to File your Provisional Patent Application

What I did was to put all the documents into a single folder so it would be easy to find them when it came time to upload them to the USPTO's EFS (Electronic Filing System).

All of your documents need to be converted to PDF files for the patent office. There are free downloadable programs that will convert your documents to PDF files. One such program is CutePDF.

Filing Your Provisional Patent Online - Step By Step Instructions

Step 1. Get all of your materials ready and in a folder that you know the location of so when you are asked to upload the files you know where to browse to on your hard drive.

Step 2. Go to the USPTO website Home Page:

Step 3. On the left side of the pager under "PATENTS" click on Item Number 4 - "File Online"

Step 4. The page you land on will have 5 links in about the middle of the page. Assuming you are not a registered user of the EFS web, you will want to click on the link labeled: "Launch EFS-Web Unregistered eFiler"

Step 5. On this page you will need to sign in using your name and email address, and click on the "New Application" check button. That opens a window where where you choose between Utility, Design or International Application. Another box opens and you check the button for "Provisional". Click "continue" at the bottom.

Step 6. You are now presented with a form with "Application Data" at the top of the page. Fill out the boxes and click on "continue".

Step 7. You should now be at a page where you can confirm your application data and browse to your PDF files. Then you upload the files and click on "Continue".

Step 8. Continue through a couple of more pages where you calculate the fees, and unless your a huge corporation you are a small entity and so your fee should be $110. Then confirm and submit your application.

The final step is paying the fees. That's it. You should write down your application number as the patent office isn't going to email you anything. So when you get your 1st receipt that shows an application number, write it down.

Once you have the application number, congratulations! Your invention is now patent pending!

Here is the provisional patent application that I filed. (scroll down)  Provisional Patent Application - Selective Asparagus Harvester

My Original Harvester Patent:  Selective Asparagus Harvester Patent 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Filing a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) Myself

I’m going to go ahead and file a provisional patent application for a new invention idea with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to obtain some protection for my invention.

I've come up with a really neat new thread locking method, at least I think it is, and I think it is patentable. I’ve used the USPTO and Google Patents to search for prior art, but haven't seen anything at all that would make my new idea "obvious" in the eyes of a patent examiner.

The All Important "One Year Rule"

Should you for any reason not file within one year of a sale of your invention, offer for sale, or use your invention commercially or in public, or disclose to the public a description of your invention, your invention becomes prior art. Therefore if you file for a patent, you won’t be able to get it because the novel feature of your invention will already be prior art from the public disclosure.

Also, publically disclosing your invention will terminate your ability to obtain foreign patent rights in most if not all foreign countries. If you are anticipating obtaining foreign patent protection and you need to make you invention public in some manner, then you can file a PPA first, and then publish. You have one year from your US filing date to file for foreign patents, and they consider the PPA as a valid filing date assuming you follow up with a real patent application within one year of filing the PPA.

Is My New Idea Marketable

I’m not sure if my new invention idea is something I will be able to market. I can use that one year period to investigate the marketability aspect.

When the patent office receives your PPA, it doesn’t look at it, it just files it. If you fail to file a real patent application within one year of filing the PPA, the patent office simply throws the PPA away. Unless you reference it in your real application it might as well never have been filed.

Provisional patent applications are not available for Design patents, only Utility and Plant patents.

Provisional Patent Applications Are Easy To Prepare

• The PPA requires a detailed description of your invention describing how to make it and how to use it.

• Drawings if needed for clarification in making and using the invention

• A cover sheet and a fee transmittal form

• A fee. The amount can be found on the USPTO website

• A self-addressed return receipt postcard

If you are filing electronically, then you won’t need a cover sheet or return postcard. The cover sheet gets created automatically if you file electronically.

Provisional patent applications do not require:

• A Patent Application Declaration

• In Information Disclosure Statement

• An abstract and summary

• A description of the invention’s background

• A statement of the invention’s advantages

A PPA Does Not Need Claims

A provisional patent application does not need to recite any claims. The claims define the scope of your invention protection, and thus are extremely important, especially considering all the legalese required for the legal language. I prefer to work with a patent attorney for the real application.

A PPA only requires a clear description of your invention in enough detail for someone of ordinary skill in the art to build and use it. If an element of your invention is not described, then it will not obtain protection. It must be clearly revealed in the PPA to support your real patent application.

Use Broad Coverage Language

If you do write your own PPA, be sure to make the language you use as broad as possible so as not to accidently narrow the scope of your invention. For instance, if your invention uses a gear to transmit power from one element to another, instead of referring to it as a "gear", refer to it as a means of transmitting power from element a to element b. Thus it could be a gear or a chain, or a driveshaft etc.

More basic information about patents.