How Do You Spot A Good Patent - Some Straightforward Ways of Evaluating a Good Patent

There are a number of ways for you to get a patent on your invention. There are online services like LegalZoom, 1-800 type services that you see on television, and there are law firms that specialize in patent matters. So how do you know which one is right for you?

The answer is that any one of these entities can help you get a patent in different circumstances, but the question small businesses need to be asking is which one of these can provide you with a quality patent that will be an asset to your business?  So how do you spot a good patent?

The good news is there are some very straightforward things you can look at to evaluate a patent application. For example, one of the first things to look at in evaluating the patent application is how well the application describes the invention. Patents have three main parts, the specification, the drawings, and the claims. The specification is the written description of the invention, and you want to make sure that this part of the application thoroughly describes the invention in detail. It’s also a good idea to describe any foreseeable alternatives to your invention.  Similarly, you want to make sure that the drawings that illustrate your invention show each and every detail or aspect of your invention, and especially every aspect that is fundamental to the function or operation of your invention.

The second thing to look for in evaluating a good patent application is the claims. The claims are what defines your legal rights in your patent, so only what you claim is what you can protect and prevent others from doing. As such, it’s critically important that your claims accurately described your invention. Further, make sure that your claims only recite elements that are necessary to the function of your invention. For example, if your invention is a pencil sharpener, then generally it’s not a good idea to claim the pencil with the sharpener. You would want to claim the structural elements of your sharpener regardless of what pencil was used in the sharpener.  Another important thing to look for in patent claims is to make sure that the claims are only directed to one person or entity so you don’t get in a situation where you have multiple parties involved in infringing your claim. Using the pencil sharpener analogy, if you were to claim both a pencil and the sharpener, then you would have to bring a lawsuit against both the pencil manufacture and the sharpener manufacture. So if you want to have a good patent, direct your claims only to the sharpener so you will only have to deal with the sharpener manufacturer if you get into an infringement situation. 

The third thing to look for in evaluating a good patent is the citation to prior art. When you file a patent with the United States patent office you are required by law to provide the patent office with any prior art that you are aware of that is material to the patentability of your invention. What this means in layman’s terms is if you’re aware of other patents or printed publications that the patent examiner should know about in evaluating your invention for patentability, then you have a legal duty to give that information to the patent examiner so they can make an informed decision on if they should allow your patent. This is done through citing the prior art to the examiner in what’s called an information disclosure statement. These are big words but very simply mean that you have to fill out a form and send it to the examiner letting them know of the prior art that you’re aware of. Good patents almost always cite relevant prior art. As such, you should make sure that whoever is helping you with your patent asks you to provide them with the most relevant prior art so that they can then provide it to the patent office.

There are many more things to look for in a patent application, but generally speaking if these three things are done well, then you got a pretty good chance that your patent application will mature into a good patent.

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