While completing your patent application, you have several options, based on what you wish to patent. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, recognizes two main types of patent applications, a design patent application and a utility patent application. Each application seeks protection for different aspects of an invention.

  • Design Patent Applications—Design patent applications seek to secure protection for non-functional, ornamental, or aesthetic aspects of an invention. These essentially represent how the invention looks. For example, the inventors of a new running shoe may wish to file a design patent application for the unique look of the shoe, which separate and independent from how the shoe performs or functions. Once a design patent application is approved by the USPTO, it will last for 15 years from the date of issuance.
  • Utility Patent Applications—Utility patent applications focus on the utility aspects of an invention, which directly relates to how the invention works or functions. The running shoe inventors, for example, may wish to patent a revolutionary sole of the shoe, which may help a wearer run longer distances, or its unique laces that won’t come undone while running. Utility patents, once approved by the USPTO, last 20 years from the filing date.

There are two options, at least initially, when considering a utility patent application:

  • Provisional—Provisional patent applications allow inventors to quickly and inexpensively obtain a “patent pending” status. Provisional patent applications are never examined by the USPTO, and they automatically expire exactly one year from the filing date, at which time, a non-provisional application will need to be filed.
  • Non-Provisional—Non-provisional patent applications are often more detailed and require a set of patent claim which define the scope of protection sought. Non-provisional patent applications, once filed, will be assigned to a Patent Examiner at the USPTO for a thorough examination.

In some cases, an inventor may choose to begin with a provisional patent application, which can serve as a “patent pending” place holder at the USPTO while the inventor fine tunes the specifics of their inventions.

It is important to keep in mind that you should move swiftly and secretly in terms of applying for a patent in that any public disclosures, sales, or uses prior to the application filing date could have negative consequences to the patentability of your invention. In addition, the United States has a “First-Inventor-to-File” patent system, meaning that the application filing date could control patent rights, regardless of the date of invention. In any event, at the time of filing your patent application, the invention must not have been (a) publicly disclosed, on sale or in use by anyone other than the inventor, or (b) publicly disclosed, on sale or in use by the inventor for more than one year.

Gerben Law Firm provides flat fee application services for both design and utility patents. Our experienced intellectual property attorneys will prepare your application, including formal drawings and detailed descriptions of your invention. Contact us today for a free consultation.