A Beginner’s Guide to Patenting and Profiting

 Do you have an ingenious idea or prototype that you need to patent and protect? Are you ready to profit from your existing invention but are unsure how to get started? This guide was written for you in order to simplify the complicated process of patenting and profiting from your intellectual property (IP).


Photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy, CC BY-SA 2.0

What is a patent?

Inventors use patents to legally protect their inventions against unauthorized reproduction.

The following are acceptable forms of IP eligible for patent protection:

  • Machines
  • Processes, typically of technical or mechanical nature
  • Articles of manufacture
  • Compositions of matter, including mixtures and unique chemical compounds
  • Significant improvements upon any of the above

Not every invention is eligible for patent, however. The invention must be novel and non-obvious. That means the new patent cannot infringe upon anyone’s prior patent or patent application, and that the solution provided by your invention is not obvious.

There are three kinds of patents in the United States:

  • Utility patents protect the function of your invention and last 20 years from the date the filing date.
  • Design patents refer to the shape, size, surface ornamentation or any other external design of an article. Design patents last for 14 years after the patent is granted.
  • Plant patents protect asexually reproducing, cultivated plants which are developed by plant breeders. Like utility patents, these last 20 years from their filing date.


How do I apply for a patent?

It’s entirely possible to apply for a patent yourself, but be aware that it will mean completing plenty of research and paperwork, and will require meeting strict deadlines. Most people seek legal help when filing for a patent.

First, there are provisional and non-provisional patents applications to consider. Provisional patent applications (PPAs) exist so that you can have “patent pending” status prior to beginning the regular patent application (RPA) process, which is much more complicated. PPAs require a small fee, a detailed description, and an informal drawing of the invention.

You must apply for your RPA within a year from the date of filing your PPA to maintain full benefits of “pre-applying”. The important elements of an RPA are as follows:

  • Specification: This includes the title, background, summary and description of an invention. This is where you should be as specific as possible about the functionality or design of your invention.
  • Claims: The aspects of your invention which are novel and non-obvious should be outlined and described as ‘claims’. It is typically better to be as broad as possible about claims in order to get the most protection for an invention, but being too broad may result in rejection of an application.
  • Drawings: The USPTO has specific requirements for official patent applications. Most importantly, they must fully describe the functions and applications of your invention, internally and externally.


Additionally, a Patent Application Declaration as well as an Information Disclosure Statement are also required. Patents typically take 1-3 years to be granted, and non-final rejections are common. Amendments can be made during this time for future examination and eventual grant of the patent.


How can I profit from my patented IP?

The first step to profiting from your patent is to determine its worth. It’s often helpful to seek the aid of an IP valuations expert in order to find the best, most accurate value of your patent.

Once it’s known how much a patent is worth, it can then leverage in into profit. The most obvious way is for the inventor to begin manufacturing and distributing invention yourself. This is a bold endeavor which is rewarded by allowing the inventor to keep all the profit and control over the patent.

You may also license your patent to existing manufacturers in exchange for royalties, equity, lump sum payments, or any other agreement you like.

Lastly, you may sell all rights to a patent for royalties, lump sums, etc. that is comparable to your current or near future IP valuation.

Getting Started

You may apply for patents online or through mail, and the earlier you apply, the more legal protection an eventual grant will give your invention. Be wise and begin the process as early as possible, and be patient once your application has been sent.