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Ference & Associates is a IP boutique law firm whose practice is limited to patents, trademarks and copyrights. We frequently get asked questions about the many aspects of the patent process. While there are a multitude of intricacies that we could dive into, the questions below are those that come up the most often and serve as a baseline for all discussion related to patents.

Why do I need a patent?
A patent gives you the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling your invention whether or not they’ve copied it from you or they have independently created it. With the patent you have the ability to stop others from making, using, or selling your invention.

Do I need a working prototype?
People often ask Ference & Associates, “Do I have to build my invention?” The answer to that is no. At one point, the patent office did require a model, however they no longer do. They do reserve the right to require one, but in 30 plus years we have never seen that happen. You do need to be able to sufficiently explain how your invention works, but there is no requirement that you actually build the invention.

What does it cost to get a patent?
For a utility patent, which is what most people think of when they say a patent (although there are also some design patents and plant patents), it takes a while and there are two tranches of expense. One is preparing and filing the application. And the other process and expense is shepherding it through the patent office. It’s not an inexpensive undertaking, and it would not be unusual for the entire process to cost $15,000. Once the patent is issued, it’s valid for 20 years from the filing date, but the government gets maintenance fees at four, eight and twelve years after it issues. So there are also costs associated with maintaining the patent after it issues.

How does the process for getting a patent work?
The process for getting a patent works in this way: you meet with the attorney, are interviewed, and asked for all notes you may have. Then the application is drafted by the attorney. This is a back and forth process with the inventor and once completed the application is filed with the patent office. If you are interested in having rights outside of the United States, you have to foreign file and your US application will be published at 18 months. If you’re not interested in foreign rights, you cannot have your US application published.

How long does it take to get a patent?
Typically between 18 months and two years you will get a first office action from the patent office, which starts the dance with the patent examiner that may go on for an additional year or two. The entire process to get a utility patent without having it expedited in any way is going to take in the neighborhood of three to five years. Once the application is filed it will sit there until it’s picked up. Typically it’s a first-in first-out queue for the examiners, however there are some procedures where the examination can be advanced.

What rights do I have once the patent is issued?
Once the patent is issued, you have the ability to stop others from making, using or selling your invention. One common misconception is that when a patent is issued people are going to be aware of it and will automatically respect it. This is not the case. However, you do have the ability once you have the patent to go into federal court and sue somebody that is using your invention and have the court tell them to stop making, using or selling your invention.

Does Ference & Associates help inventors bring their invention to market?
Ference & Associates focuses on getting the application through the patent office as well as enforcing the client’s rights in litigation. We do not help with marketing, however we are able to make some referrals to people that do.

If you have additional questions regarding any aspect of the patent process or would like us to elaborate on any of the points mentioned here, please reach out to us at (412) 741-8400 or by email at contact@ferencelaw.com.