Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson

Patent & Trademark Attorney

We Provide an Overview of The Patent Process


So you have an invention and would like to get a patent.  What’s next?  The patent process includes a number of stages, beginning with an assessment of the state of the art and ending (hopefully!) with a granted patent.  The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of the patent process, from start to finish.

Prior Art Search

Although optional, a prior art search is recommended to help you decide whether or not your invention is patentable.  The goal of the prior art search is to locate the closest prior art documents to your invention.  The search includes a review of filed patent applications, issued patents, and even scientific literature.  If the search determines that there is no overlap between your invention and the prior art, your idea is potentially patentable.

Drafting the Patent Application

Once you feel confident that a patent is worth pursuing, a patent application with the U.S. Patent Office can be filed.  The patent application is a legal document that describes the invention in detail – how to make it, how to use it, the benefits, etc. Because the Patent Office has very specific rules on how the patent application must be written, it is strongly recommended to use a patent attorney for drafting during the patent process.

After the patent application has been filed, the invention enjoys “patent pending” status.  Patent pending indicates that the inventor is pursuing patent protection, but the scope of the patent (or even whether a patent will issue) has not been determined.

Once the patent application is filed, the waiting period begins.  The patent application is published 18 months after the filing date, allowing the public to learn about your invention.  It typically takes the Patent Office an additional 6-12 months to examine the patent application after publication.

Examination of the Application

The examination process, commonly known as “prosecution,” typically involves one or more rounds of correspondence with an assigned Patent Office Examiner. Most issues involve the scope of the patent, and whether new and inventive aspects are included in the patent claims.  The Examiner conducts his or her own prior art search during the examination to either accept or reject the patent application.

In about 80 percent of cases, the Examiner will initially reject the patent application, based on a lack of novelty or a violation of the prescribed form or content of the application.  In these cases, an Amendment can be filed to address the rejection.  Often, there are several rounds of rejections before the patent application is accepted or you decide to discontinue the application.


After allowing your patent application, it typically takes a few months for the Patent Office to issue the corresponding patent.  The issued patent gives the patent owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the claimed invention into the United States.


Once granted, periodic fees are required to maintain your patent. In the U.S., maintenance fees are due 3 ½, 7 ½, and 11 ½ years after the patent issues.  The maintenance fees must be paid to keep the patent in force.


The patent process can sound overwhelming, and inventors almost always need a patent attorney to help.  If you are considering patenting your invention or trademarking a name please contact us to set up a free consultation to get started. We have offices in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC

Contact Us For Consultation

Intellectual property is often our clients’ most valuable asset and raises the most complex issues. Dogwood Law places emphasis on cost-effective counselling of clients. Whether you are just starting or have years of experience we can meet with you for a free consultation.

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