Can I File a Patent Without the Help of a Lawyer?

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Image Source: Julian Sherman

The question is one of the most common inquiries involving patent applications. The short answer is yes. Anyone can go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website to file an online claim. You may also do it via snail mail or fax.

But only because you can do it does not mean it is recommended. The patent application process is simple but tricky if that makes any sense. For instance, the government agency will have staff to help you with the steps.

There are three types of patents you can file.

  • Provisional patent, which gives you a 12-month patent-pending status
  • Utility patent, which serves to protect your invention
  • Design patent, which protects the ornamental visual characteristics of the object.

Why You Need a Patent Attorney

If it pans out, an invention can be worth millions. And if you are not careful, somebody might steal your idea and run away with it. It is why most companies opt to hire the technical expertise of a patent lawyer to help them with the patent application process.

What does the job entail?

  • Researching for a similar invention or patent grant not just in the US but other countries, as well
  • Assessing the design to determine its patentability. You need to prove the patent office that your invention is novel, innovative, useful, and not obvious.
  • Crafting the documents, documenting the process, and meeting all the requirements before filing the docs
  • Filing the utility and provisional patent application
  • Talking with the examiners of the USPTO during the evaluation process.

In 2018, there were more than 597,000 patents filed in the United States, which trailed only China in the number of applications. The Asian superpower had more than 1.5 million patent claims that year.

However, an application does not guarantee approval. For instance, for the same period, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) only issued 308,853 grants. IBM received the most grant utilities, with a total of 9,100 awards.

When Will Your Patent Application get rejected?

The USPTO will assess each application to determine if it is eligible for a grant.

An application can be rejected mainly for these reasons:

  1. Somebody already thought of your idea or invention
  2. Your invention is not innovative or novel enough
  3. Your design is too obvious
  4. Your application does not meet the criteria required by the office

The USPTO has formats and guidelines that you need to follow. For instance, grammatical and punctuation errors that change the wording on the document, incorrect paragraph numbers, reference numbers, and illustrations. You might have also used the wrong syntax or exceeded the allowed number of words on the abstract.

Why the need to be precise? The agency deals with hundreds of applications each day. They need to make sure that each application is unique. For instance, some inventions might have similar characteristics but different purposes.

It bears repeating: a simple punctuation error will result in the government rejecting your patent application. However, a rejection of an office action does not mean you cannot refile the application again. Typically, the agency will outline the reasons for the denial, thereby allowing you to correct the mistakes. It is part of the patent application process where you badly need the services of an attorney to help you hurdle the challenge.