February's advice article

Do Your Homework

By Cathie Kirik, Inventors Assistance Program

One of our most frequently asked questions is, “How do I get a patent, where do I start?” Our reply is always the same. “Do your homework."

Here are a few things to think about as you start this journey.

Is your invention useful?

Does it solve a problem?

Is it cost effective?

Does the public need it?

Is it better than the competition's?

Is it practical?

If your answer is “yes” to most of those questions, then you may have a product you want to move forward with. In that case, you should visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, uspto.gov, for information on how to protect your intellectual property. Our Web site should be your first resource for intellectual property protection information. The inventor resource page is designed specifically for inventors with useful information such as transcripts for our recent online chats and frequently asked questions (FAQs). You can find the answers to many of those burning questions you might have in the transcripts or the FAQs.

If you can’t get an answer to your question online, you can call the Inventors Assistance Program at 800-786-9199. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. The USPTO contact center can provide free literature on patent and trademark topics, send you forms, and answer basic questions. If you have a question they cannot answer, they will connect you with the Inventors Assistance Program (IAP). The IAP can answer general questions regarding patent examining policy, direct your call to appropriate USPTO personnel, assist you with filling out forms, and provide you with general information concerning rules, procedures and fees.

Class dismissed!!

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The USPTO gives you useful information and non-legal advice in the areas of patents and trademarks. The patent and trademark statutes and regulations should be consulted before attempting to apply for a patent or register a trademark. These laws and the application process can be complicated. If you have intellectual property that could be patented or registered as a trademark, the use of an attorney or agent who is qualified to represent you in the USPTO is advised.