Your friend actually got you that big meeting with that investor. You have your presentation in place but have not filed your patent yet. You do not need to reschedule the meeting; you can get a quick patent on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (or USPTO) but you have to be careful to fully protect what you are about to present.
Patents give inventors exclusive rights to inventions in return for disclosing an invention to the public. If an inventor discloses his invention before filing a patent then the bargain is broken: there is no need for the USPTO to give him any patents because he’s already given it to the public.
Getting a patent will be dramatically more difficulty after your first public disclosure. In the United States, the patent office will still let an inventor get a patent for a year after the inventor’s disclosure. Almost everywhere else in the world the inventor’s patent rights are gone.
How to Get a Patent Fast
One solution is a provisional application for patent. Once filed, a provisional patent gives you a year to file a full utility patent. A provisional patent application sets aside the patent process for a year but still has to conform to all the requirements of a patent application. Even though you are in a hurry, take your provisional application seriously.
1. Patent Search
A good patent starts with a patent search. To know what makes your invention new you have to know what is already invented, published and known. A good patent search does not require thousands of hours and a team of specialists. It does require you to know your invention, what it makes it new and how the new part of your invention works. If you cannot answer these basic questions about your invention, perhaps you do need to reschedule the meeting with that investor.
2. Write the Provisional Patent
Next, you need to write the provisional patent. If you are pressed for time, a picture is worth a thousand words. One way to avoid trying to patent an idea is to include the real details of your invention. Photos, renderings, technical drawings — even the back of a napkin. Pictures of the way you make your invention, or could make your invention, will provide a strong foundation for your patent.
3. Plan for Your Patent
A provisional patent allows you to skip the formalities of drafting the body of a patent application but you still need to have a strategy. Use your patent search and your provisional application to know where you will be in a year. Take the time that the provisional gives you and do some market research. Test your prototypes. To make the best case to the investor make sure you have your provisional application and a plan for what you are going to do next.
5. Accelerated Examination
Once your patent is on file it goes to the back of the line. You will need to wait for the patent office to process all the patents filed before yours. If you are in a hurry not just to get your patent on file, but to have enforceable claims, then you can consider what is called ‘a petition to make special.
A petition to make special brings your application to the front of the line. The petition is possible if the inventor is advanced in age or declining in health or if the invention improves the health of the environment, contributes to energy development or combats terrorism. If you need your patent examined more quickly then consider a petition to make special.
There is more than one way to get to patent pending quickly. A design patent, unlike a utility patent, is a simple application that you can assemble very fast. Like a provisional patent, however, you need to think about what kind or protection you want and draft the document accordingly.
Design patents protect designs — ornamental designs. You cannot file a patent for the shape of your invention if that shape has a utilitarian purpose. For example, your invention may be for an ergonomic design for slotted spoons. If the shape of the angle of the spoon handle serves a functional purpose then you cannot protect the functional purpose using a design patent. If the ergonomic handle, however, produces a distinct look, you can protect the distinctness of that appearance using a design patent.
Just like a utility patent, a design patent has to start with a patent search. Patent searches for design patents are very, very difficult. Prepare for a few hours to go through Google image searches trying to describe a shape. Even more than a provisional patent, drawings are everything to a design patent. The only text included in a design patent serves to put the drawings in context. Unlike a provisional patent application, a design patent needs to be formal and complete. You will likely need help to make sure the application is complete.
Even if you are in a hurry there is no reason to skip your patent application. If your patent application is not perfect file it any way. In an emergency, it is always better to have something on file.
LegalZoom can help you get a provisional patent or design patent fast. We’ll help you consult with a patent professional about your application. We can also help you do a patent search, get professional patent drawings, and even speak with an independent attorney about your patent.