An application for a patent consists of three parts:
1. A written description of your invention.
This document, called a "specification," must be clear enough so that
anyone skilled in the subject matter of the invention could recreate your idea
and use it. It must fully and completely describe the invention; nothing may be
withheld. This part of the application must conclude with one or more "claims"
which legally define your invention. Specifically, you must name all the essential
details that are the operative parts of the invention. Judgments as to the novel
and unobvious features of your idea are based on these claims. If you are granted
a patent, then infringement will be judged on the basis of these claims.
The wording of this part of the application is critical to the patent rights,
if any, you may receive. Although you have the right to prepare your own application
documents, getting assistance of a licensed patent practitioner will help your
chances of obtaining good patent protection.
With the written description, you must also submit a signed declaration stating
that you believe yourself to be the first inventor of the discovery named.
2. An illustration or drawing of
the discovery. An illustration or drawing of the discovery, in those cases where
they are possible, must show every feature described in the first part of the
3. A filing fee. Fees change periodically
and should be verified by your patent practitioner. Consult the U.S. Patent &
Trademark Office's web site for current fees (www.uspto.gov). To give you an idea
of cost: for 1999, the basic filing fee for an application for a utility patent
is $690; for a design patent, $310; for a plant patent, $480. (Additional fees
are based on the total number of claims described in the application.) When a
utility patent is issued, another fee of $1,210 is required; for a design patent,
$430; for a plant patent, $580. Maintenance fees are required periodically for
the duration of a utility patent to keep it in force. Maintenance fees are due
3 1/2 years after issue ($830), 7 1/2 years after issue ($1,900) and 11 1/2 years
after issue ($2,910). All fees (filing, issue and maintenance) are reduced by
half if the applicant is a "small entity"-in other words, an independent
inventor, a small business or non-profit organization inventor. When the application
documents are finished they should be mailed to the Commissioner of Patents and