Patent Prosecution: A patent is a group of rights, conferred by the federal government, to inventors that create a new, useful and non-obvious inventions. Generally, a patent does not entitle the inventor to use (practice) the invention, rather it confers the right to prevent others from using it. The policy behind the patent system is to encourage inventors to disclose their ideas to the public. In return for disclosure, inventors get 20 years of market exclusivity. The patent process generally proceeds as follows.

Search: The Prior Art search is performed in order to ascertain what other inventions or information exists that is similar to the invention at issue. A good prior art search is a smart investment as it allows for strategic claim drafting and it minimizes uncertainty later in the process.

Drafting: The drafting process comprises writing, drawing and otherwise describing the invention at issue. Drafting a patent is a technical process as the finished patent application must comply with various statutory requirements. A utility patent application must contain a Specification, Claims and Drawings. 

Filing: Submitting the completed patent application and supporting documents, according the the U.S. Patent Office’s formalities.

Information Disclosure: The information disclosure statement (IDS) is the mechanism for fulfilling the duty of candor to the USPTO. The IDS must be submitted and will include all information relating to the invention at issue, including any prior art uncovered in a prior art search. 

Prosecution within the USPTO: Once the application is submitted to the USPTO, an examiner will perform a search, and examine the application for patentability. The examiner can object, reject or approve the application as a whole or in part. Office actions, Interviews, and Responses are all part of prosecution within the USPTO. Other requirements may also arise during prosecution including, Continuations, Divisionals, Appeals, and Foreign Filings. Once prosecution starts, the outcome will be either issuance as a patent or abandonment of the application. 

Issuance and Maintenance: Once the USPTO and the inventor come to an agreement on the substance of the patent application, the patent will be finally checked for correctness and printed. Maintenance fees are due at 4, 8, and 12 years from issuance. Similar fees are required for trademarks at years 6 and 10.