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All About Business Patents: How Long Does It Take to Get Approved?

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Whether you’ve just created a groundbreaking technology, a unique product, or a revolutionary process, obtaining a patent is key to the success of your business. Not only will a patent protect your intellectual property, but it also ensures that your innovative ideas remain exclusive.

March 20, 2024
Author: NCH

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However, the road to patent approval can be lengthy and complex, with plenty of obstacles. This begs the question: how long does it take to get a business patent granted?

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a legally granted exclusive right that gives inventors the authority to protect their intellectual property. This protection can be applied to various innovations, from novel devices and technologies to unique methods and designs. 

By obtaining a patent, inventors can control who can use, make, or sell their inventions, giving them a monopoly for a set period.

Overview of a Patent Life Cycle

Understanding the life cycle of a patent is vital for businesses seeking to protect their intellectual property. It consists of several phases:

Invention

This is the initial stage where a unique and useful concept is conceived. The inventor or business identifies the innovation that they want to protect.

Patent Application 

Inventors and businesses must file a patent application with the relevant patent office, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It contains a detailed description of the invention, claims to define the scope of protection, and drawings or diagrams, if applicable.

Examination 

Once the application is filed, it undergoes examination by patent examiners to determine if it meets the criteria for patentability. This phase can involve multiple iterations and communications with the patent office.

Grant 

A patent is granted if the patent office is satisfied with the application and all requirements are met. This marks the official beginning of the patent’s life.

Maintenance 

During the life of the patent, the owner must pay maintenance fees to keep it in force. This typically requires paying these fees periodically, ensuring the patent remains valid.

Enforcement 

With a granted patent, the owner can take legal action against anyone who infringes on their rights, providing a legal means to protect their invention.

Expiration 

Patents have a limited lifespan. For utility patents, this is usually 20 years from the filing date, while design patents last 15 years. Once the patent expires, the invention enters the public domain, and anyone can use it freely.

Process of Applying for a Patent

Similar to franchising a business, obtaining a patent can be a complex and lengthy ordeal. The exact procedure can vary by country, but the fundamental principles remain consistent. 

Step 1: Invention Disclosure

Before filing a patent application, the inventor must prepare a comprehensive document that describes the invention in detail. This disclosure should be clear, concise, and written in a manner that can be easily understood by those skilled in the relevant field.

Step 2: Do a Patent Search

Conduct a patent search to check for similar inventions and overlaps. Doing so can determine if there are existing patents that could impact the patentability of your invention. A thorough search will also save you time and resources and help you refine your application.

Step 3: Consult with a Patent Attorney

While it’s not mandatory, working with a patent attorney is highly recommended. These professionals have the expertise to guide you through the application process, ensuring you meet all legal requirements and determine the viability of your invention.

Step 4: Draft a Patent Application

This involves creating a detailed written description of the invention, as well as preparing drawings or diagrams. Patent applications must comply with specific formatting and content requirements outlined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Step 5: Filing the Patent Application 

The USPTO will examine the application, and the examination process varies depending on the type of patent. The United States has a “first-to-file” system, meaning the first inventor to apply is typically granted the patent.

Step 6: Patent Examination 

A patent examiner thoroughly reviews your application to assess its novelty and non-obviousness. This process can take several months to a few years, depending on the complexity and backlog of applications at the patent office.

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The patent office may issue office actions, which are requests for additional information or clarifications. The inventor must respond promptly to these requests.

Step 7: Publication

Once your application is approved, it will be published, making the details of your invention publicly available. The publication may occur 18 months from the filing date, although this can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Step 8: Grant or Rejection 

Based on the examination and responses to office actions, the patent office will either grant the patent or reject the application. If granted, you will receive a patent grant. This document provides exclusive rights to your invention within the specified jurisdiction.

Timeline of Getting a Patent

How long it will take to obtain a patent can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the complexity of your invention, the volume of applications being processed by the patent office, and the jurisdiction in which you file your application.

Idea Conception to Patent Search (Months 1-3) 

The initial phase of developing your idea and conducting a patent search can take anywhere from one to three months, depending on the complexity of the invention.

Patent Application Preparation (Months 3-6) 

This stage consists of drafting a detailed patent application, which may include drawings, descriptions, and claims. It can take several months to compile all the necessary information.

Filing the Application (Month 6) 

Once your patent application is ready, you can file it with the USPTO. In some cases, expedited processing may be available for an additional fee.

Patent Examination (Months 12-36) 

The examination process varies depending on the workload of the USPTO and the complexity of your invention. On average, it can take anywhere from 1-3 years to resolve.

Publication (Month 18) 

As mentioned earlier, your patent application may be published 18 months from the earliest filing date. It can protect you against copycats even before the patent is granted.

Grant (Months 24-48) 

If your application is approved, you will receive a patent grant. The timeline for this step largely depends on the complexity and the patent office’s workload.

Maintenance and Renewal (Annually) 

To maintain your patent’s protection, you must pay maintenance fees due at specified intervals. Neglecting to pay these fees can result in the patent expiring before the full term.

Enforcement (Throughout the Patent Term) 

During the patent’s term, you have the right to enforce it against anyone who uses your invention without permission.

Expiry (20 Years from Filing)

The patent’s term usually lasts for 20 years from the filing date. After that, the invention becomes part of the public domain.

Speak With NCH Expert Business Advisors

It’s no secret that the patent application process can be complicated and time-consuming. However, with careful planning and the assistance of expert business advisors like those at NCH, you can make the path to patent approval smoother and more manageable. 

Our business specialists can provide invaluable assistance in applying for a patent. With our support, you can increase your chances of securing a patent efficiently and effectively. You can even rely on us to help you build a strong credit profile for your business!

Call us at 1-800-508-1729 or visit our website for more information.

DISCLAIMER: The above material has been prepared for informational purposes only, containing opinions of the provider, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consider consulting tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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