How to file a patent application

After a patent specification has been drafted, it must be filed.  A form and specification are usually filed by mail, fax, in person or electronically to the patent office with which you wish to be granted your patent, depending on the invention and the market.

There are three ways in which a patent can be filed:

  1.  File, generally on the same day, separate applications to each patent office in the nation or region of which you wish to protect your patent.  This is generally the most expensive option as application and legal fees are payable to each office as soon as your application is filed.
  2. Another option is to file a patent application in a single country under the Paris Convention, which establishes a first (priority) date for the application and allows applications in other member countries to be delayed up to 12 months from the priority date.  If a patent is desired to cover countries under the European Patent Convention (EPC), the European PO is the office to file, either through the direct European route, or Euro-PCT route.  Other regional offices include ARIPO, OAPI, Eurasian PO and GCC.
  3. Finally, the most cost-effective option is filing a PCT application.

Filing Procedure

The following guide follows only one jurisdiction, others may have slightly different timescales.  The date on which the patent office receives the patent application and relevant forms is confirmed as the filing date of the patent, and the patent is given an application number.  Usually, within 12 months of the filing date, a form must be sent to the designated Patent Office requesting a search.  The office will carry out a preliminary examination of the application to make sure it meets legal requirements, along with a prior art search.  The patent examiner will examine each claim and, if relevant documents are found, they will be included in a search report and sent out to the inventor or their patent attorney.  After 18 months from the first filing date, the patent application will be published.

Granted Patent

To get to the step of being granted the patent can be a long process and often goes through a stage of prosecution, where more detailed patent office examination conclusions forces responses from the patent attorney to counteract their arguments.  When the inventor is happy to proceed with their application, be it that the results of the search report are positive and suggest the invention is patentable, or that the inventor and patent attorney re-files his application with a more detailed claims section, the next step is publishing the patent.

Published Patent

When the patent application is published, an electronic version is published which can be freely viewed by members of the public, and a notice is placed in the Patents Journal.  Maintenance is then paid on the patent until it reaches the end of its lifetime.