How to Get a Utility Patent

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A utility patent is granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which provides exclusive rights to inventors for their inventions. These inventions are machines, processes, and products. Utility patents are governed by federal law, and obtaining a utility patent follows the same basic steps as in other states.

However, the US has a thriving technology industry and is home to many innovative companies and inventors who seek to protect their intellectual property through utility patents. Obtaining a utility patent can be a complex and lengthy process. Still, it can be well worth the effort for inventors wishing to safeguard their creations and potentially profit from them.

Requirements for Obtaining a Utility Patent

  • Novelty

    The invention must be new and cannot have been previously disclosed or made available to the public in any way. The invention must also be non-obvious to someone skilled in the relevant field.

  • Utility

    The invention must have a useful function or purpose. This means the invention must have some practical application and cannot be purely theoretical or abstract.

  • Non-Provisional Application

    The inventor must file a non-provisional application with the USPTO. This application must include a detailed description of the invention and drawings or diagrams to illustrate its design.

  • Enablement

    The application must enable someone skilled in the relevant field to replicate the invention without undue experimentation. This means that the description of the invention must be detailed and complete enough to allow someone to understand and recreate it.

  • Written Description

    The application must include a written description of the invention that provides enough detail to clearly define the scope of the invention and its claimed benefits.

  • Claims

    The application must include a set of claims defining the invention's scope and its legal protection. Claims are specific statements describing the invention's elements that the inventor believes are unique and deserving of patent protection.

  • Patentability

    The invention must be eligible for patent protection. For example, laws of nature, abstract ideas, and natural phenomena are not eligible for patent protection. Additionally, the invention cannot be offensive, illegal, or contrary to public policy.

Utility Patent Application Process

  • Conduct a Patent Search

    Before filing a utility patent application, it is important to conduct a thorough patent search to determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious. This search can be done online or through a patent attorney or agent.

  • Prepare and File a Non-Provisional Patent Application

    Once the patent search is complete, the inventor or their attorney must prepare and file a non-provisional patent application with the USPTO. This application must include a detailed description of the invention and drawings or diagrams to illustrate its design.

  • USPTO Examination

    After the application is filed, it will be assigned to a patent examiner who will review the application to ensure that it meets all of the requirements for patentability.

  • Office Action

    The patent examiner may issue an office action, a written statement outlining any issues or objections with the application. The inventor or their attorney must then respond to the office action to address the issues raised by the examiner.

  • Issuance of Patent

    If the patent examiner determines that the application meets all requirements, a Notice of Allowance will be issued, and the inventor must pay the necessary fees. Once the fees are paid, the USPTO will issue the utility patent.

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Benefits of Having a Utility Patent

  • Exclusive Rights

    A utility patent gives the inventor exclusive rights to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States for up to 20 years from the date of filing the patent application. This can be a valuable tool for preventing competitors from using or copying the invention without permission.

  • Increased Value

    Having a utility patent can increase the value of the invention, making it more attractive to investors, partners, or potential buyers. This can help inventors monetize their inventions by licensing them to others or selling them outright.

  • Deterrent

    A utility patent can deter others who may be considering creating a similar invention. The potential legal consequences of infringing on a patent can dissuade others from copying or using the invention without permission.

  • Competitive Advantage

    Having a utility patent can provide a competitive advantage by establishing the inventor as the sole provider of the invention and can make it more difficult for competitors to enter the market.

  • Increased Credibility

    Obtaining a utility patent demonstrates that the inventor has a unique and valuable idea worthy of legal protection, which can increase their credibility with investors, partners, and customers.

  • Licensing Opportunities

    A utility patent can allow the inventor to license their invention to others, which can generate revenue without requiring the inventor to manufacture or market the invention themselves.

Key Terms

  • Utility Patent: A type of patent that protects the function or utility of an invention, including machines, processes, compositions of matter, and improvements thereof.
  • Inventor: The person or group who invents or discovers a new and useful process, the machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.
  • Patent Attorney: A legal professional who specializes in patent law and can assist inventors with obtaining and enforcing patents.
  • Prior Art: All publicly available information and existing inventions that are similar or related to the invention for which the utility patent is being sought.
  • Patentability: The criteria an invention must meet to be granted a utility patent include novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness.
  • Claims: The part of a utility patent application that specifically defines the invention and sets the legal boundaries for the invention's protection.
  • Patent Office: The government agency responsible for examining and granting utility patents.
  • Provisional Patent Application: A temporary application filed with the patent office to establish an early filing date and provide a year of protection. At the same time, the inventor develops and refines their invention before filing a formal utility patent application.
  • Patent Infringement: The unauthorized use, manufacture, sale, or importation of an invention protected by a utility patent.
  • Patent Assignment: The transfer of ownership of a utility patent from one party to another.


Obtaining a utility patent can be complex and time-consuming, but it can provide valuable legal protection and numerous benefits for inventors and companies. To get a utility patent, an inventor must ensure that their invention meets the requirements for patentability, including novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness. They must then prepare and file a non-provisional patent application with the USPTO, which will undergo examination by a patent examiner. If the application is approved, the inventor will be granted exclusive rights to their invention for up to 20 years.

While obtaining a utility patent can be expensive and requires significant effort, it can provide valuable legal protection and a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Inventors are encouraged to work with a patent attorney or agent to ensure that their application meets all of the necessary criteria and maximizes their success chances.

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