Bizcoach, Small Business Ideas and Resources for Starting a Small Business


1. What is a patent?

A patent is the most common form of intellectual property protection used by inventors to protect their ideas. The patent office grants patents to inventors who can prove they have new and innovative ideas, and that protection is exchanged with the inventor for full disclosure. In other words, the patent office grants the exclusive right to profit from your invention in exchange for you disclosing your invention to the public.

2. What is a patent search?
A patent search is conducted to find out whether or not your product has already been patented by someone else. A patent search is usually done in the U.S. because that office has the largest database of patents in the world. A patent search costs anywhere between three hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, depending on who you contact to do the search.

3. Are there different kinds of patents?
Yes. The two most commonly used forms of patent protection are what is called a design patent and an utility patent.

4. How much does a patent cost?
A design patent can cost between three thousand and five thousand dollars. A utility patent can cost between five thousand and fifteen thousand dollars depending on the complexity of the invention.

5. How long does it take to get a patent?
A design patent can be obtained in six to twelve months. A utility patent takes between one and three years.

6. What is patent pending?
Patent pending is a term used to describe an invention whereby a patent has been filed with the patent office but yet to be granted, in other words, patent pending is a term used to describe the time period between the date you filed the patent application and the date the patent is granted.

7. In what territory does a patent protect my product?

A patent is only valid in the territory is was applied for; therefore, if you applied in the United States, then it is only valid in the U.S. In this case, anyone, anywhere in the world can produce, distribute, and profit from your idea without paying for anything except for sales made in the U.S.

8. What length of time does a patent protect my product?
A design patent is valid for five years and may be renewed for a further five for a total of ten years. A utility patent is valid for twenty years and cannot be renewed. After these patents expire, all exclusive rights the had, ends, and the product becomes what is know as "in the public domain" and anyone, anywhere can profit from the invention without paying the inventor anything.

9. How many patents have been granted?
The U.S. patent office has granted over 5 million patents.

10. Do I need to have a patent?
There are no laws that require anyone to file a patent application. But if you intend to develop a new product and wish to profit from your invention you must file a patent application to protect your rights. If you do not file a patent, anyone can steal your idea and pay you nothing and you will will have no legal recourse.

11. Can I patent an idea?
No, you cannot patent an idea. You can only patent the physical embodiment of an idea. Which in layman's terms means an actual product.

12. Can I get a world-wide patent?
Yes, but 99% of inventors can't afford this option. On average it will cost between one hundred and three hundred thousand dollars for world-wide protection; therefore, this option is more often used by multi-national corporations and not individual inventors.

13. Does a patent stop others from producing my product?
No, a patent does not stop others from producing your product, but it does give you the right to sue them for profits. The patent office has no enforcement powers. It will grant you certain rights to your product and if someone infringes on these rights, you must sue them directly for damages.

14. What do I do if another company steals my idea?
If someone infringes on your patent or steals your idea, you will need to find a patent attorney and file patent infringement litigation against that company. If someone else steals your idea and you do not have protection, there is nothing you can do.

15. Can I prepare a patent myself?
Yes, an inventor can prepare and file a patent protection on their own, but the preparation of a proper patent application is extremely complicated and it is strongly suggested that you find professional assistance in preparing a patent application.

16. What professionals prepare a patent application?
The only people qualified to prepare patent applications on behalf of inventors are registered patent agents. Contrary to popular opinion, these patent agents do not have to be lawyers. Patent agents are a profession in their own right; although, many lawyers have become patent agents also. The best patent agents tend to be individual who have a degree in mechanical or other forms of engineering. Since most inventions are consumer products, these individuals keenly understand design and engineering of inventors products.

17. When was the patent office first opened?
The U.S. Patent Office was opened in 1776.

18. How many patents are granted each year?
In the 1990's the U.S. Patent Office granted roughly one hundred and fifty thousand patents per year.

19. How do I contact the patent office?
The U.S. Patent Office's website is