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How to File a Patent

What is needed to file for a patent?

And you thought developing your new invention was hard work. The patent process can get overwhelming, especially considering all the different elements that go into an application. A formal (non-provisional) application has a few required sections. In addition to drawings of the invention, you'll include the specification, which essentially teaches someone how to make or use the invention. The specification contains the following:

  • Abstract: a short, at-a-glance summary of the rest of the specification
  • Background: describes the need for your invention and problems that your invention solves
  • Summary: a short explanation of the invention
  • Detailed description: includes a description of the ideal embodiment, as well as additional embodiments of the invention and how they work
  • Conclusion, ramification and scope: briefly states the advantages of the invention and the additional embodiments again, as well as how the legal scope shouldn't be limited to forms shown

The specification should also include such things as the title of the invention, cross references to related applications, and a list of the figures in the drawings.

Most importantly, your application will include claims, which are listed after the specification. Claims actually define the legal scope of your patent and describe the boundaries of your invention (should the patent be granted). In addition to independent claims, which stand alone, you can also list dependent claims, which are narrower and incorporate a previous claim [source: Pressman]. Try to be broad at first, so that you can cover the most legal ground for your invention. But you'll probably have to narrow your claims later if the examiner considers them too vague.

You should include several other things along with your application, such as payment of filing fees, a self-addressed receipt postcard, a Patent Application Declaration (PAD) form and an Information Disclosure Statement (IDS). The PAD states that you are the true inventor; in the IDS, you disclose anything else that you're aware of that's relevant to your application (such as another application that's similar to yours).

Unfortunately, the process is far from over when you file your patent, which is another reason to get professional help. An attorney will help you navigate the prosecution process as you fight to get your patent granted by the USPTO.