Old US law would grant patent rights to the original inventor. However, since 2011, the US grants patent rights to the person who files first. If you have a patentable idea, then you should apply for a patent as soon as possible to protect your right to be the only one who can manufacture, use and sell the product.
You could apply for a patent if your invention is both useful and new. Useful means the product performs its intended purpose and is valuable to the user. New means that the product is obviously different than anything else. It also can’t be in use, on sale, available to the public or already patented.
Types of patents
There are three different types of patents in the US: design, utility and plant. Design patents protect your unique design of an item. Examples of items that could receive a design patent are furniture, beverage containers and jewelry. Utility patents cover the new and useful process of your invention. If you discover a new and distinct hybrid plant, you could apply for a plant patent.
Filing a patent
Before filing a patent, you need to check if patents for similar products already exist. When you submit an application to obtain a patent, you need to include a description, drawings and statement of claim. Your drawings need to depict all of the features of your invention. The statement of claims clarifies the scope of your patent.
Other intellectual property
Don’t forget about other intellectual property like your trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets either. Protecting this information helps distinguish yourself from other business owners so that customers aren’t confused. If someone else uses your intellectual property, customers may mistakenly think they’re buying your product when they’re not.
One of the first things you should do when you have a new invention is apply for a patent. The first person to file is usually the one who wins rather than the person who created it first.