The patent examination process can be long and slow.
With much of the patent process out of your hands, here are five specific things you can do to speed up the patent process.
1. Write a Clear Application
A clear patent application starts with a lucid understanding of how your invention works and what makes it novel. Whatever makes the invention work—be it the shape of the handle, the exact ratio of aggregate to sand, or the size of the pores on the mesh—you have to know what makes your invention new and useful before you can describe it to the patent office.
Once you've got that down, you can move on to the drawings. Well-drawn figures are the roadmap to a clear application. Each drawing should demonstrate one critical aspect of the invention and provide grounds to discuss all the different ways that you could put the pieces together to make the invention.
2. Be Disciplined
It's easy to take your eye off the ball. After you write your patent application, it may be years before the patent office responds. Be ready for that and write out a strategy for you to keep in mind before you file the patent application. Know all the examples, technical terms, and how you plan to use them to negotiate your rights with the patent office.
Most importantly: be timely. You have six months to respond to the patent office before you have to start paying fees. Respond with the quickest, best response that you can. Every week you delay is another week before you get your patent—and may also rack up hundreds of dollars in extension fees.
3. Negotiate Realistically
It's hard to even get a patent, much less the broad patent protection you may want. Patent claims, the short sentences at the end of your application, describe the exact metes and bounds of your property rights. Generally, short patent claims offer more protection—the more words you add, the more limited your patent rights become.
Your claims are going to get longer. When you fight to keep those claims short, make sure you remember why. Keep in mind that patent claims are fundamentally a business decision. Do not take it personally—if the examiner insists you add two whole clauses to your patent claims, then keep an open mind. As long as the patent is short enough to protect your product, get the investment, or cover your invention, then stop holding out.
4. Talk to the Examiner
When you get stuck in negotiations, when you don't understand a rejection, or when you think the examiner just isn't getting you, it's time to pick up the phone. The examiner wants to be done with the negotiation too—just not at the expense of issuing an overly broad patent. You are entitled to interview the examiner and it's usually pretty helpful to do so.
When you talk to the examiner, get their point of view on your invention. Listen, even if it hurts, to understand where the examiner is coming from. Although patents are technical, those who examine them are just people. Sometimes what you think is a technical disagreement is actually more of a grammatical misunderstanding. Just as a chance to talk helps you understand the examiner, it will also help the examiner understand you. And mutual understanding will make the patent process go faster.
5. Set a Budget
Patents are expensive. Even if you're doing it yourself, you'll spend time reading, researching, and writing. Know what you want to spend before you start and get the best patent you can afford—not the perfect patent you feel you deserve.
Filing a patent subjects you to myriad forces that are beyond your control. Focusing on what you can control will help when the patent process slows to a crawl.