Your startup has developed a cutting-edge innovation. It’s different from anything else on the market, and it has significant potential for monetization. At this stage, your next step may be to file for a patent. Here’s how you can tell if you are ready:
Our Alabama Patent Attorney Shares 3 Key Requirements for Patentability in the United States
While there are several requirements for patentability in the United States (requirements vary, often significantly, in other countries around the world), there are three preliminary considerations for assessing whether you may have a patentable invention.
1. An Idea Reduced to Practice
First, eligibility for patent protection requires an idea “reduced to practice.” An idea alone is not eligible to be patented. There are three main types of patents in the United States:
- Utility Patents – Processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter and improvements of any of the above.
- Design Patents – The ornamental characteristics of an article of manufacture.
- Plant Patents – Invention or discovery and asexual reproduction of a new plant variety.
If your startup is still in the ideation phase, then a patent application may be premature. However, there is often a fine line between idea and invention; and, as discussed below, it is critical to ensure that you do not wait too long to file.
2. A Novel and Non-Obvious Innovation
Second, to qualify for patent protection an invention must be both “novel” and “non-obvious.” The novelty requirement ensures that patent protection is only granted to new innovations and that newer patent claims do not interfere with the exclusive rights of existing patent owners. The requirement for non-obviousness serves a similar function (by prohibiting registration of inventions that are obviously based on existing patents, or “prior art”), and also ensures that patent protection is reserved for truly worthy innovations.
One of the key steps toward assessing novelty and non-obviousness is conducting a patent search. Conducting a search before you file helps ensure that your startup’s efforts (and funds) are not wasted pursuing a patent application that is destined for rejection.
3. Confidentiality (or Application Within One Year of Publication)
Third, an invention is only eligible for patent protection if either (i) it has not been publicized, or (ii) your startup is still within the one-year grace period for submitting a provisional or nonprovisional application. This grace period allows entrepreneurs, startups and other companies to file for patent registration in the U.S. even after making their inventions publicly known.
Of course, if you publicize your startup’s invention before filing for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you run the risk of someone else beating you to the punch. As a result, while it is important to know that you can file during the post-publication grace period if necessary, it is generally best to file for patent registration prior to public disclosure if possible.
Schedule a Consultation with an Alabama Patent Attorney at AdamsIP
If you need to know more about filing for patent registration in the U.S. or abroad, we encourage you to get in touch. Please call 251-289-9787 or get in touch online to schedule an appointment with an Alabama patent attorney at AdamsIP. We assist clients throughout the state including Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.