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Patents: Information for Inventors/Entrepreneurs

Information for Inventors/Entrepreneurs
Disclaimer: The Lichtenberger Engineering Library is not a legal entity and no one on staff is a lawyer.  This guide is purely for helping you learn about and search for patents.  If you need legal assistance, please consult a licensed lawyer.  

The Patent Process


  1. Determine the type of intellectual property you need.  Is it a patent, a trademark, both, or something different?
  2. Determine if your invention is patentable.  Figure out (a) can this type of idea be patented and (b) has this idea already been described in public by someone else.  You need to do a patent search and other types of searches.
  3. Determine what kind of patent you need.  Is it a useful invention ("utility patent"), an ornamental design ("design patent"), or a type of asexually reproduced plant ("plant patent").
  4. Get ready to apply.  Look at the application options provided by the USPTO and determine which ones are right for you.  You may also wish to consult a patent lawyer.
  5. Submit your application.  Submit all of your fees and documents using the USPTO's electronic filing system.  Please note that it may be some time before your application is examined.
  6. Work with your examiner.  If your patent examiner doesn't think your invention is patentable based on the initial application, you can have a conversation with them to amend your submission or to make your case.
  7. Receive your approval.  You get a patent!
  8. Maintain your patent.  You are required to pay maintenance fees to keep your patent active.  These fees are due before the 4th, 8th, and 12th anniversaries of the issue date.

For Student: 

For Faculty & Reseachers on Campus: 

Searching for a Patent Lawyer

You can represent yourself ("pro se") in the patent process, but it can be helpful to work with a patent lawyer.  Patent lawyers are typically legal professionals with a technical background, and they are skilled at drafting the complex legal language that goes into patent claims.