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Do you have an idea to patent?

  1. Can the idea be patented?
  2. What kind of patent do you need?
  3. What can you do to protect your rights while waiting for your patent?

Patented ideas are granted everyday that come from such diverse origins as Individual inventors to teams working for large, international corporations. Patentable ideas sometimes are conceived by accident. Others are composed out of necessity. Some are calculated by corporate designers or professional inventors. Still, many others are merely passed down through family connections. The point is that ideas often translate into patents. And once an invention becomes patent pending through the filing of a patent application, the inventor is on the road to a potentially lucrative endeavor that is quite possibly unique and can become legally protected.

More than just a ‘better mousetrap’: Even the term “invention” can be misleading. The proverbial “better mousetrap” is often cited as the archetypical patented invention. Other like inventions include tools, games, toys, electronics, vehicle parts, high-tech devices and low-tech devices. However, methods of doing business such as online business methods, online social networks, stock analysis methods and new systems and methods for manufacturing are just a few examples of ideas that have fallen under the rubric of “invention.” The law if constantly changing on the patentability of some methods. Unique and non-obvious modifications to existing inventions also can be patented.

Beyond abstract: For an idea to be termed an invention, one must have an idea and then reduce it to practice. In other words, an inventor must be capable of explaining how the idea will be reproducibly applied in a real world example. For instance, if an inventor conceives of a machine that can instantly transport a person from New York to Los Angeles, he or she has a great idea! But if the inventor actually knows how to build such a machine, he has a great invention. An idea needs to be more than just abstract to be an invention.

No prototypes necessary: Inventors do not need to build a model or prototype of an invention to make sure that it actually works. They only must be able to describe how the idea will be embodied or practiced. Most commonly, an inventor writes down an idea and draws pictures or flow charts of how the idea will look or be practiced. In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not even typically accept prototypes.

With strict confidentiality, Michael L. Greenberg, the Registered Patent Attorney at Greenberg & Lieberman, continues to guide people ranging from solo inventors to corporations around the world in determining whether their ideas have become patentable inventions.

Step 1 – Determine what types of patents are applicable

Utility Patent

Best known: The best-known patent application is the Utility Patent which protects something with a function like tools, games, toys, electronics, vehicle parts, and high and low-tech devices.

Lesser known: “Better mousetraps” aside , there is a lucrative trend toward patenting less obvious items. Our registered patent attorney, Michael L. Greenberg, has filed utility patent applications relating to online business methods, stock market prediction methods, traditional business methods, and certain types of software.

Design Patent

Look, not function: A Design Patent  protects the look and feel of an item but not its function.

Plant Patent

Powerful tool: Researchers expend time and money producing new or original varieties of plants via asexual reproduction. This is a specialty patent that can become a powerful tool in the right situation.

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Application

International scope: Most American, Asian, and European countries are signatories of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which provides patent applicants with a priority date in every country that is part of the treaty. Aside from extending this protection beyond the United States, the PCT is important because it often considers the application more quickly than the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO).

Greenberg & Lieberman clients range from solo inventors to corporations around the world in determining whether their ideas have become patentable inventions.

Step 2 – Search for patents similar to your idea

Patents are granted daily. An idea like yours likely exists. If you don’t find it a government patent examiner will. Your best option to avoid rejection due to an idea discovered by a patent examiner is to conduct a Patent Search of your own before filing.

There are two ways to conduct the search process:

  1. If your search reveals a similar idea, weigh the risks associated with the exploitation of any differences between the ideas or simply drop the concept before investing additional time and money.
  2. Proceed with a pre-emptive strike. Include any similar search results in your application and argue for the uniqueness of your idea.

An inventor should conduct a patent search immediately after considering the pursuit of a patent. An excellent Web site dedicated to patent searches is

Our registered patent attorney, Michael L. Greenberg, has experience conducting patent searches and screening the results. Our close proximity to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office enables our patent attorney to search relevant original records by hand, if requested.

Results: Once your search is completed, one of our patent attorney will review the results with you. Just because an existing idea is similar, does not necessarily mean your idea is not novel or unique. We will discuss all options during your consultation, but the ultimate decision to pursue a patent or drop the idea rests with you.

Step 3 – Protect your idea in anticipation of receiving one or more patents.

“This product is patent pending”

Unprotected ideas are vulnerable, making one’s idea public in any way before the establishment of patent pending status is a suspect business decision. The concept is open to theft, and, an inventor or company that allows another person to gain knowledge of the idea may instantly lose all international patent rights while simultaneously causing the clock to tick toward losing U.S. patent rights.

File an application: Any idea that is deemed patentable becomes patent pending the instant its application is filed with a government patent office. Then an inventor or assigned corporation may securely discuss, develop, or sell the idea.

Provisional Patent Application: A provisional patent application is a way to get patent-pending status for one year. You must supply enough information about your invention so that someone skilled in that field could create it. And. before that year expires you must upgrade the provisional into a traditional Utility Patent Application. However, it is important to note that a patent can never be granted from a provisional application.

Provisional vs. Utility: Applicants generally file provisional applications when they expect to tweak the idea, want to file quickly, desire a lower cost filing option while they secure investor financing, or merely want to see if there is a viable market for their idea.

Why you should use an attorneyThe use of an IP attorney to file your patent is not required, however, the United States Patent and Trademark Office typically advises that you use a registered patent attorney or patent agent. Michael Greenberg, our registered patent attorney, has filed hundreds of patent applications and provided counseling and litigation services when necessary. Please read some of these patent applications.

Step 4 – File your patent application(s), track application progress and keep you informed.

Our business is your business

Filing a patent application is an important and potentially lucrative step in the life of an inventor and business. One CEO threw a “patent-pending party” for his staff after their stock method application was filed. Another inventor promptly sold his construction system idea for millions of dollars only a week after filing his application. Many other inventors have begun seeking investors after filing, arranging meetings and launching marketing campaigns. In contrast some inventors realize the daunting task ahead and quietly pursue their business plans.

What is done: Whether retained in the very beginning or later in the patent application process, ,we assure our clients of personalized service and confidential representation. After consulting with you about the nature of your invention, our registered patent attorney, Michael L. Greenberg writes the application, arranges drawings, files the application, and monitors its progress through the government bureaucracy.

After filing: We continue to monitor the status of each application we file, including personal visits to the patent office if necessary or requested. The patent office rarely grants an application exactly as requested and will issue office actions which are not included in the cost of writing and filing the original application. We will continue to work with clients on post filing issues including trademarks, infringement issues, incorporations, contracts, licensing, assignments and virtually all intellectual property legal services.

Policing your intellectual property:  Failure to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) is implied permission to potential infringers. Patent, trademark and copyright infringement is not a criminal matter, so it is up to you and us to monitor the use of your IP, to demand any infringers cease and desist their activities, and, if necessary, file lawsuits to make them stop.


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