Understanding the patent application process in Texas

Having an understanding of the application process and requirements may help Texas inventors obtain patents to protect their innovations.

Whether on purpose or by happy accident, people may create and develop new processes and products. Should they wish to capitalize on their innovations, they may pursue protections such as patents to help protect their intellectual property. In 2015, the United States Patent and Trademark Office reports receiving 589,410 utility patent applications, 39,097 design patent applications and 1,140 plant patent applications. During that year, however, the agency only approved 298,407 utility patents, 25,986 design patents and 1,074 plant patents. Understanding patents and the application process may help people in Texas and elsewhere to successfully protect their innovations and inventions.

The types of patents

There are three types of patents that may be granted by the USPTO - design patents, utility patents and plant patents. Design patents are used to protect "new, original and ornamental" product or other article designs. New and useful processes, new and useful improvements to existing products or processes, products and other articles, and compounds are safeguarded through utility patents. Plant patents are awarded to those who discover and asexually reproduce any unique plant varieties.

Submitting the application

The first step in the patenting process for any inventor is to determine whether their innovations can be patented. Further, they must also conduct a search to check if their inventions have been previously disclosed to the public.

Provided they and their inventions meet the requirements, people may complete applications for patents online through the USPTO's website or by hand-delivery or mail. Along their applications and the appropriate filing, examination and search fees, people must also submit supporting documentation, which may include written descriptions and claims, any pertinent drawings, and declarations or oaths for their innovations. The specific associated fees and required documentation may vary depending on the type of patent an inventor is seeking.

Reviewing the application

Once an application is completed and submitted, it is assigned to an examiner for review by the USPTO. The examiner will survey the application to determine if it meets the patent requirements as established by federal law. Should the reviewer object to anything in the application, the inventor has the opportunity to argue for or amend the claim.

Applications deemed in compliance with the requirements and of satisfactory condition may be approved and the inventors issued a notice of allowance. These announcements specify any publication and issue fees that must be paid prior to the issuance of the patent. While patents grant patentees exclusive rights to the protected intellectual property, it is up to the inventors themselves to enforce these safeguards.

Seeking legal assistance

There are numerous complexities involved in obtaining a patent, which may impede Texas inventors' ability to protect their creations, ideas and works. Thus, those who have such intellectual property that they wish to protect may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A legal representative may help them identify if their inventions are patentable, in addition to helping guide them through the process to help ensure they meet all of the requirements for approval.