How Long Does it Take to Get a Patent?

Securing a patent is a complex, multi-step process with a duration that depends on various factors, including the type of patent application filed, the complexity of the invention, and the patent strategy employed. 

Understanding the Patent Application Process

The patent application process involves various stages, from the initial patent search to the final grant, each with unique requirements and challenges, laying the foundation for a successful patent journey and influencing how long it takes to get a patent.

Preliminary Steps for Patent Application

The first pivotal step is performing a thorough patent search. This process delves into prior patents, applications, and other public disclosures (prior art) to determine if your invention is novel. An adept patent attorney or agent like LegalZoom can effectively navigate the complexities of this search using various databases, including the technology centers of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The patent search is not merely a regulatory step; it forms the foundation of your patent strategy. In addition to ensuring your invention is novel, the search provides insights into the patent landscape of your industry. This knowledge can help you pursue patent protection effectively and save you from investing time and resources to patent an unpatentable idea.

Filing a Patent Application

Once you’ve completed your patent search and ensured your invention is novel, the next step is filing a patent application with the USPTO. You have two options: filing a provisional or non-provisional patent application. Both types have unique advantages; the choice depends on your situation and patent strategy.

A provisional patent application is an initial step that allows you to establish an earlier filing date without starting the examination process. It gives you a 12-month window to refine your invention, prepare a more comprehensive non-provisional application, or seek patent protection in other countries. The provisional application provides a safeguard, granting you patent pending status without committing you to the full patent application process.

On the other hand, a non-provisional patent application is a formal request for a patent from the USPTO. Unlike the provisional application, this starts the examination process, wherein a patent examiner reviews your application for compliance with patent law and ensures your invention is novel, useful, and non-obvious. It’s essential to understand that filing a non-provisional application is more time-consuming and costly than a provisional application. Still, it sets you on the direct path to getting a patent.

From Patent Pending to Patent Granted

Upon filing your patent application, your invention achieves patent pending status. This phase can last for several years, depending on various factors like the nature of your invention, the load on the patent office, and the number of office actions (i.e., communications from the patent examiner requiring responses) generated during the examination process. Remember, your earlier filing date, established with your provisional or nonprovisional application, remains crucial during this stage, as it can help claim priority if any disputes arise.

Navigating this patent process requires careful attention and strategic decisions. Thus, having an experienced patent attorney or agent by your side can be invaluable. They can guide you in responding to office actions, deciding when to file for a continuation or continuation in the part application, and how to manage the issue fee and maintenance fees for your patent.

The process of getting a patent is a complex journey involving several steps. It requires a solid understanding of the patent application process, timely decisions, and effective patent strategy to navigate the path from application filing to a granted patent. Your understanding of the patent process, coupled with strategic planning and execution, can significantly impact how long it takes to get your patent.

Factors Influencing the Duration of the Patent Process

The road from the patent application to a granted patent can be as short as a year or stretch out to several years, depending on circumstances unique to each situation.

Type of Patent Application and Patent Pending Status

A primary determining factor is the type of patent application filed. The choice between a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application significantly impacts the timeline. Filing a provisional patent application secures an earlier filing date and gives you a patent pending status.

However, it is essential to remember that this is not a full patent application but serves as a placeholder for 12 months. During this period, you can refine your invention, conduct further patent searches, and prepare for the non-provisional patent application. Consequently, starting with a provisional application can extend the timeline for when you will get a patent.

Examination Process and Office Actions

In contrast, a non-provisional patent application triggers the start of the examination process at the patent office. For instance, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will assign a patent examiner to review your application. This examination process’s duration can depend on the patent examiner’s workload and your invention’s complexity. The more complex the invention, the longer it may take for the patent examiner to thoroughly review the patent claims and make a decision.

Office actions are another element that influences the timeline of the patent application process. The patent examiner sends formal documents raising issues or queries about the patent application. The applicant’s response to these office actions can lead to a lengthy exchange, extending the patent process timeline further. A final office action signifies the end of this exchange, after which the applicant can either amend the claims to the examiner’s satisfaction or appeal against the decision.

Continuation Applications and Intellectual Property Strategy

Patent law permits filing a continuation or continuation-in-part application during the examination process. This allows the applicant to make amendments or add more information to the originally filed application, extending the timeline to get a patent.

Another crucial factor is the intellectual property strategy of the applicant. If the applicant seeks patent protection in multiple countries, it could prolong the patent process. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) can be handy in such situations, allowing the applicant to simultaneously seek patent protection for an invention among its member countries. However, each regional patent office involved in this process will review the application, which can lengthen the time to secure a patent.

Different Types of Patents and Complexity of the Invention

Filing for different types of patents can also impact the duration. For instance, a utility patent, which covers new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter, often takes longer to process than design patents, which cover new, original, and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture.

If you’re applying for a patent in a high-tech field such as computer software, expect the process to take longer. Due to their intricate nature, these fields often have a backlog at the USPTO and require more time for patent examiners to review.

So, while the question, “How long does it take to get a patent?” is simple, the answer is multifaceted. It’s an amalgamation of various elements from your patent strategy, the complexity of your invention, the type of patent application filed, and the intricacies of dealing with office actions and the patent office. Patience, thoroughness, and the assistance of an experienced patent attorney or agent are vital to navigating this complex process.

Best Strategies for Accelerating the Patent Process

Knowing the best strategies for accelerating the patent process can significantly enhance the speed at which you obtain patent rights, reducing the long duration often associated with getting a patent. These strategies ensure a well-executed patent strategy that can improve the odds of obtaining a patent swiftly and effectively.

The Value of Professional Guidance in the Patent Process

Hiring a professional patent attorney like LegalZoom or a patent agent is crucial in effectively navigating the complex patent application process and minimizing the timeline. These professionals are well-versed in patent law and thoroughly understand the practices of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Their expertise allows them to guide you in conducting a comprehensive patent search to ensure your invention is novel and non-obvious.

An experienced patent attorney can help you draft your patent application, whether a provisional or non-provisional patent application, clearly and effectively present your invention. Furthermore, they can steer you efficiently through office actions and formal documents from the patent examiner, which may require additional information or clarification about your patent application. This guidance can save significant time and mitigate potential mistakes, facilitating a smoother patent application process.

Leveraging the Prioritized Examination Process

If you’re wondering how long it takes to get a patent and wish to expedite your patent application process, the USPTO’s “Track One” prioritized examination process could be an advantageous approach. Applicable for non-provisional utility and plant patent applications, this accelerated process can bring your application to a final disposition within twelve months.

While this option incurs higher costs than a standard patent application, it significantly reduces the average time to get a patent if urgency is a priority in your patent strategy.

Filing an Accurate and Complete Patent Application

One crucial aspect often overlooked in the rush to secure a filing date is the completeness and accuracy of the patent application. An incomplete patent application or a poorly conducted patent search can lead to an office action and significantly delay the application process.

Ensuring your patent application is comprehensive and precise and presents your invention is paramount. This includes properly drafted patent claims, detailed drawings, and an exhaustive description of your invention. 

Completeness also extends to the details of the invention’s utility. Ensuring every aspect of the invention’s functionality is covered for utility patents, which are often more complex, can help prevent further questions or office actions from the USPTO. 

Understand Your Intellectual Property Rights

Understanding your intellectual property rights and their application to your invention is also key. It can guide your decisions throughout the patent process, such as whether to pursue patent protection in one country or across multiple regions, impacting its timeline.

Remember, international patent applications, such as those under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), can add complexity and time to the patenting process, as they involve the patent laws of multiple jurisdictions and regional patent offices.

Overall, the strategies to speed up the patent process, from the filing date to receiving patent pending status and finally obtaining a patent, require diligent preparation, thorough execution, and strategic planning. With the right approach, the question of “How long does it take to get a patent” can have a more satisfying answer, bringing you closer to achieving your patent goals more swiftly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

While these FAQs aim to provide a basic understanding of the patenting process, remember that patent laws are complex and may vary depending on your region and the type of invention. Hence, it’s advisable to consult a patent attorney or agent when navigating these complexities.

What is the average time it takes to get a patent?

The average time to secure a patent from the USPTO is 24 to 36 months for non-provisional applications. Provisional applications, which offer “patent pending” status, have a 12-month duration. Understanding these timelines helps set realistic expectations.

Can I speed up my patent application process?

To speed up your patent application, consider the USPTO’s “Track One” service for quicker reviews, though at a higher cost. Engaging a patent attorney or agent can help navigate complexities, and submitting a comprehensive, accurate application minimizes delays.

What is the role of a patent attorney or agent in getting a patent?

A patent attorney or agent is crucial for navigating patent law and USPTO procedures. They ensure your invention’s novelty, draft accurate applications and respond to patent examiner queries. Their strategic insights can also help determine the best patent protection approach, domestically or internationally.

Why is a patent search important in the patent application process?

A patent search is essential in assessing an invention’s novelty by examining prior patents and disclosures. This step identifies potential patenting challenges and can highlight areas for refining the invention. If the search indicates the invention isn’t novel, one might opt not to file, saving costs.

Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder of The Product Company.