A patent is a claim on an invention granted to an inventor by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are three types of patents, according to the USPTO: utility patents are granted for inventions of objects, such as machines, equipment or medication; design patents are granted for inventions of ornamental designs on manufacturing equipment; and plant patents are granted for the invention of plant breeds. After an inventor applies for a patent, he must decide whether to sell his invention to a company or start a business.

The Application Process

Before applying for a patent, many inventors conduct personal research to ensure their invention is new and unique and that no similar invention has been previously patented. This research may be done at one of many of the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries throughout the United States or in the Patent Search Room located at Madison East, First Floor, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA. You may also hire an attorney or agent to conduct this research for you. Some inventors choose to file a "disclosure document," which is documented proof that you are the inventor of your invention and that you intend to file for a patent. The disclosure document may be held at the patent office for up to two years. Your patent application must include a written description of you invention; an oath or declaration; a drawing of your invention; and filing, search and examination fees. Expect a reply between 30 days and six months, the USPTO reports.


You may also file a "provisional patent," which grants you the right to say your invention has a "patent pending." Provisional patents may be filed for utility and plant patents, but not for design patents. A provisional patent application does not require an oath or declaration and if granted, it is valid for 12 months. Also, Tamara Monosoff, from "Entrepreneur" magazine reminds inventors that getting a patent does not guarantee your product or design will make it to the market. But if you decide to patent your invention, and your patent is approved you, you have some decisions to make.

Sell Your Invention to a Company

One route you can take is to sell your patented invention to a company that buys inventions. If you take this route, you must decide on a price for your product or design, come up with a good sales pitch for it and find companies that are willing to listen to your pitch. Monosoff suggests that you include market data in your sales pitch; tell the company why your invention will be a successful product and what type of consumer will want to purchase your invention. Monosoff also asserts that you must go into your sales meetings with a pleasant attitude; be the type of inventor a company wants to work with.

Start a Business

The other avenue you can take is to manufacture your invention and start a business. This avenue involves drafting a business plan, developing a marketing strategy and having adequate capital. Your business plan is a detailed outline of how you intend to operate your business. It addresses factors such as competition, marketing, operating procedures, personnel and business insurance. It also requires financial projections and reports, including accounting statements, calculations on how much capital you need and any business loan applications you file, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Your marketing strategy addresses the industry, the competition, your target customers and how you plan to penetrate the market with your product, according ot the Curators at the University of Missouri. Many entrepreneurs have to obtain capital in the form of a loan. When you apply for a business loan, you need to bring your business plan and marketing strategy with you in meetings with lenders.