When your business has devoted considerable time and money to developing a new consumer product, you don’t want to jeopardize your investment by letting competitors copy and sell your product at a lower price. Fortunately, obtaining a patent ensures you have the exclusive right to monetize your new product.

Securing a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) involves a complex, detailed process. Hiring experienced legal counsel can make the process of patenting your product more straightforward and less stressful. Importantly, you know your invention is kept confidential at Gearhart Law, because Gearhart Law does not outsource any of the searching or drafting of the application to contractors in foreign countries, as do some firms and companies. 

For decades, entrepreneurs and businesses have turned to the team at Gearhart Law for guidance and advocacy during patent prosecution. Our attorneys have in-depth experience in a wide variety of fields, including computer technology, medical devices, and consumer products. When you turn to us for help obtaining a consumer product patent, you can expect individualized attention and responsive support through the application process, including direct access to the lead professional working on your case. Contact our firm today for an initial case evaluation to learn more about the patent process.

Understanding Consumer Product Patents

A patent gives an inventor the exclusive right to produce and monetize the patented invention, design, or process for a limited time in exchange for the inventor fully disclosing the invention’s specifications or process. With a patent, an inventor or patent holder can exclude anyone else from making or monetizing the patented invention or process. This exclusivity provides a financial incentive for people to develop new technologies, products, or processes. If the market finds the invention or process desirable, only the inventor or patent holder can make or use the invention or process or authorize others to do so. 

Fully disclosing an invention’s or process’s details helps parties determine whether another product or process infringes on the patent. Full disclosure also helps foster innovation, as other inventors can improve upon patented inventions or processes. 

Federal law requires a claimed invention or process to have an “inventive concept” to qualify for patent protection. Abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomena alone do not qualify as having an inventive concept and cannot receive patent protection. However, inventors can incorporate abstract ideas, laws of nature, or natural phenomena into a practical application that can receive patent protection. It is important to discuss your idea with a patent professional at Gearhart Law to determine if the invention is eligible for patent protection. 

Consumer products almost always contain tangible inventive concepts that qualify those products for patent protection. Obtaining a consumer product patent benefits manufacturers or companies by giving them a period during which only they can produce the product or authorize others to produce it on their behalf. 

The Patenting Process for Consumer Products

The patent process for consumer products involves several steps. First, an inventor will begin by preparing to file a patent application for their invention. The inventor must determine whether their invention qualifies for patent protection. The USPTO will only grant a patent to a novel, non-obvious, and useful invention. They may deny a patent to an invention that someone has already obtained a patent. 

Inventors should conduct a “prior art” search to see if their claimed invention has already received a patent.. The inventor must also determine what type of patent(s) to apply for. Consumer products typically receive utility patents (which protect the invention’s function), design patents (which protect the form or ornamentation of a manufactured item), or both.

Once the inventor has determined that they can patent their invention and decided what type(s) of patent to apply for, the inventor must complete and file application paperwork with the USPTO. The USPTO recommends engaging a trained patent professional to help with the preparation and filing of a patent application, and the professionals at Gearhart Law have many years of experience helping inventors with this process. Inventors can file a provisional application for a utility patent to establish the filing date for a subsequent nonprovisional application. They must submit their nonprovisional application within 12 months of filing a provisional application. A nonprovisional application constitutes the formal application for patent issuance. The application must include supporting documentation, such as designs/diagrams of the invention and a description of the scope of the claimed invention. 

The USPTO will examine the inventor’s application to determine if the invention meets all the requirements for a patent. The examiner’s review will include checking whether the invention complies with legal requirements, plus a review of previously granted U.S. and foreign patents, published prior patent applications, and literature in the applicable engineering/scientific fields, to ensure the claimed invention meets the requirements of newness, usefulness, and non-obviousness. The examiner will issue a decision in an “office action;” if the examiner denies the application, the office action will explain the reasons for the determination. Inventors can request reconsideration of denials by replying to the grounds for denial and identifying the alleged errors made by the examiner. 

When the USPTO grants a utility patent, the patent holder must pay maintenance fees 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after the date of the patent issuance. Patent holders can pay the maintenance fees up to six months after those deadlines with an additional surcharge. If the patent holder does not pay a maintenance fee, the patent expires at the end of the six-month grace period (four, eight, or 12 years after patent issuance). 

The Importance of the Patent Search and Clearance

Conducting a thorough patent search can help inventors avoid wasting time and money on a patent application that the USPTO will ultimately reject as not novel or obvious. Patent searches can also help ensure that a new invention does not partially infringe upon existing patents.

A thorough patent search requires extensive industry and legal knowledge and experience. Hiring an attorney to help you conduct a patent search and to represent you during the patent application process with the USPTO can give you the best chance of success in your application. At Gearhart Law the searches are conducted by the attorney who will eventually draft the application so they have a clear understanding of any prior art. Gearhart Law does not outsource any of the searching or drafting of the application. Having legal representation to deal directly with the USPTO can also take the stress of the application process off your shoulders and allow you to focus on other areas of your business. 

Contact a Patent Attorney Today for Help

When you have questions about consumer product patents, turn to a patent attorney for the answers you need. Contact Gearhart Law today for an initial consultation to discuss how we can help you secure or defend a patent for your consumer product.