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A patent is the most expensive and complex type of IP (intellectual property) right. Decide whether you can protect your IP with a copyright, trademark, or service mark, or by keeping it under wraps as a trade secret before you go through the patent process.

If you and your IP professional decide that a patent is the way to go, and you have the time and money to see the process through to the conclusion, here’s the patent process in a nutshell:

  1. Make sure the invention is really yours and doesn’t belong to your boss, your spouse, or your business partner.

  2. Do a patent search to make sure that no one else has already come up with your formula, process, or invention.

  3. Check that your invention passes the three-part test — it’s new, useful, and wouldn’t be obvious to someone knowledgeable in the field.

  4. Prepare a patent application, including:

    • A short abstract of the invention

    • References to any prior applications

    • A brief discussion of the general field, background, and circumstances of the invention

    • A summary of the invention

    • A description of the best implementation of the invention, including a drawing, if applicable

    • The claims (the legal metes and bounds — dimensions and limits — of the invention)

  5. File your patent application, paying special attention to filing deadlines.

  6. Pursue and prosecute your application through the Patent Office.

  7. Appeal adverse decisions.

  8. Get the patent (if you still want it).

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Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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