Even prior to the application process with the USPTO, a potential patent applicant should consider conducting a search of the prior art to help determine the likelihood of ultimately obtaining patent protection for an invention. Arudimentary search may include an on-line search for existing patents, publications, or other prior art. Discovering prior art directed to the invention may preclude the applicant’s ability to obtain patent protection. Patent practitioners can assist in conducting patent searches, and can provide an opinion as to the likelihood of the invention’s patentability. If it appears that the invention is novel and non-obvious over the prior art, a patent application must be prepared and filed to obtain patent protection.
A patent application includes a written description of the invention, drawings, and claims that define the invention. The description and drawings of the invention must adequately articulate the invention such that a person skilled in that technical area could make and use the invention without undue experimentation. When complete, the patent application is submitted to the USPTO. Unless special circumstances apply, patent examiners review patent applications in their field of expertise in the order that they are received. It can often take up to a year or more from the time the application is filed to the time of first examination by the USPTO.