The patent application process explained
The patent application process consists of several stages. It usually takes at least a few years to progress through every stage. The later stages are the most expensive so most people try to delay them for as long as possible.
In the time before you file a patent application, make sure you keep your invention secret. This is really important. If you don’t keep it secret, you may ruin your chance of getting a valid patent. An experienced patent attorney can tell you more about what you can and can’t do at this stage.
Once you’re ready to prepare a patent application, you need to know which aspects of your invention can be patented. An experienced patent attorney can help with this.
A provisional patent application is a common way to start the process. The provisional describes the principles of your invention and explains it using examples. It’s important to choose the wording very carefully because the provisional is the “foundational document”, and forms the basis for everything that follows. The provisional is not to place to save money as problems in the provisional are amplified many times further along, obliterating any upfront savings.
The provisional lasts one year, but this is not the end of the process. Before the year is up, you’ll need to start the next stage. If you want to protect your invention overseas, most people do this by filing a “PCT” application. The main benefit of the PCT is that it delays the patenting process by 18 months.
The next stage is the most expensive part of the process. This is where you need to file “national” patent applications. For example, if you need patents for Australia, Europe and the US, each of those areas requires a separate national application. The deadline for doing this is two and a half years from the date the provisional was filed.
The laws for national patents are different in each area, but your patent attorney can explain the differences. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “world” patent just yet.
Each national application will eventually be examined by a different patent examiner. The examiner checks that the invention is new, inventive and complies with other rules. They often raise objections that can seem overwhelming. Patent attorneys are used to this and can usually find the right arguments and concessions to satisfy the examiner.
At the end of the process, each national application will lead to a separate patent being granted. Standard patents last for 20 years.