Encyclopedia of patent terms and Expressions

Patent Overview-1

Introduction to Patents: some basics


This section gives general information on patents, in the form of an introduction.

intro to patents

Elements of a patent application.


Its easy to make harmful mistakes in deciding what to include in a patent disclosure. This section tries to steer inventors in the proper disclosure-direction.

Patent disclosures: the skinny

Working with the Patent Office


The US Patent Office is a strange place, lots of strange rules. Have a clear understanding of this right from the start.

Working with the Patent Office

Patent Drawings overview


Drawings should be good self-explanatory visuals, and should not require a lot of words.

See lots of patent drawings

finding Patent Counsel


Anyone seeking patent counsel has a lot of options. However, there is an interesting way to find suitable counsel that most people don't use: find a group of patents in your field, pick the ones you like, and then determine what law firm managed the patent process.

search patent attorneys

$cost of patents


At our firm we have a simple rule: how much work is the inventor willing to do themselves?

patent costs

Patent Overview-2

International Patent protection


The RoI on International filings is a real crapshoot. Make sure you can afford this.

International Patent Protection

Patents and Crowdfunding: some risks


This subject involves an intersection of two very different very separate legal doctrines, which do not always mesh together real well. We kept this section short because its easy to go off into the weeds.

Patents and Crowdfunding

Patent Searches


The single-most misunderstood aspect of the patent prospect.

patents searches: why misunderstood

Software and mobile inventions


Don't say "software", say "computer-implemented". 

software inventions, how to protect

Types of patent applications


Among all their other problems, patents also have a lot of different formats to choose from.

types of patent apps

Unusual Patent Strategies


Patents can be "laddered", just like bonds. However, this requires a lot of care and caution in one's filing practices.

Patent strategies

Introduction to Patents

General patent info

This section is made for people who want to learn about the patent system, and are seeking information on the patent process. Either to do it themselves, or to hire a professional, or that just want to know more about this process. By understanding the concepts herein an inventor can be better-informed and potentially reduce some of their legal costs.

< . . . search the below for any keyword you may have used . . . >

If you arrived at this site inquiring about "patent information", "how to get a patent", "what is a patent", "getting a patent", "patent filing", "patent application drafting", "patent your idea", "how to patent a product", "how to patent my idea", "protect your idea", "how can i patent my idea", "what inventions can be patented", "where to get a patent", "patent application format", "protect my idea", and/or something similar, then you are in the right place!


Information about the form and content of a typical patent application can be found here. 

Be aware, many inventors file their own patent applications, and this site shows how to at least start that process.

Still, if you want to hire patent counsel, you have several choices. There are lots of law firms that would like to have your business. Its very easy to do a Google search on "patent attorneys in <your state>" that alone will likely produce a lot of prospects. But you should also be aware that many patent attorneys never meet their clients in person, you do not need to hire someone in your own State, and that most of the work of drafting/filing a patent application gets performed remotely, over the Internet.


elements of a patent application

Parts Form and Content

If you arrived at this site looking for information regarding . . . "patent information", "how to get a patent", "what is a patent", "getting a patent", "patent application form", "patent filing", "patent application drafting", "how to patent a product", "how to get patent rights", "where to get a patent", "patent application format",. . . and/or something similar, again, you are in the right place! 


All Utility patent applications must have a specification, drawings, and claims, among other things. However, the requirements for Provisional patent applications are much more flexible. For example, a Provisional application can be a company's pitch deck, and/or their business plan. While this is not optimal, and not in the right format to support a later Utility, its still better than nothing. Especially at a filing cost of only $70. There exist some important patent deadlines, too difficult to explain here, in which an inventor or company should make every effort to file something, even something imperfect, prior to these patent deadlines. If you want to know more about this, use the Contact Us to send us an e-email. We always respond to anyone who contacts us.

Below is an important link. While we seldom refer our clients to government statutes, as they can be quite dull, below is a link (we give you the full link) that really explains a lot about the US patent system, straight from the horse's mouth.


This section of the government statutes shows exactly what is required for a US patent application, from soup to nuts. All summarized on one (long) page. We have been using this specific page for years, and find it to be an invaluable resource.

If the above link doesn't work, click here.

We often get the inquiry "can you patent an idea without a prototype", and the answer is YES! The patent statutes requires only that you fully disclose the relevant features of an invention, there is no requirement that you actually build a version.  HOWEVER, the best advancements usually occur when someone has gone to the trouble of building something. Still, many many successful patents are Issued that were never ever built.

The queries "how to file a patent application", "how to apply for a patent", "how do i get something patented", "how do you file a patent", "patent filing procedure", and "how to file a patent" all have the same answer.

Its not easy, but you can do it yourself, at least at the provisional stage. OR, you can hire counsel. Either way, no matter what, there are a lot of steps, time, and expense in the patent process, and it will require a lot of work by the inventor. 

Regarding "do i need a patent", at a cost (FILING FEES only) of ($70 micro entity / $140 small entity), filing a patent application is probably a good inve$tment . But do NOT assume that having a patent will make your invention or business any more marketable. Patents usually have very little to do with whether an invention does well or not.

Also, a key part of this inquiry is the word "need". As is shown in our "Books and Media Helpful For Inventors" section (below), many successful inventors have not engaged with the patent system at all! Steven Key's book "Sell you Ideas With or Without a Patent" is excellent in every way except that the Title is misleading. All of the successes discussed in the book (we know the book well) involved selling WORKING INVENTIONS (not mere ideas) that had legitimate commercial interest. Accordingly, none of them were mere "ideas".

Regarding the queries "invention patent", "patent application", "patent my invention", "patent rights", "get patent", "invention process", "to patent something", "a patent", "how to patent your product", "patent system", "example of invention", "patent info", "apply for a patent", "patent your invention", this site certainly addresses these issues. 

However, without more information, its unclear where within this site to direct such inquiries. One possible response might be to direct them to an excellent YouTube video showing how a person can electronically file their own patent application themselves, without an attorney.

Regarding "patent prosecution", this is a fun expression, suggesting that the patent process has criminal (prosecution) aspects. It does not, but the word-pun is still amusing, as it sometimes feels like the Examiner is treating us as a criminal. You inventors may occasionally feel this way also, its quite common.

Regarding the queries "how to create a patent", "inventions and patents" (not the same, not synonymous), "how do i apply for a patent", "how to patent a surgical instrument", "patent application procedure", "how to write a patent", "patent application template", and "how to do a patent", this site includes template patent files and patent illustrations intended to clarify one potential format for a patent application. These are located here.

However, as always, the very best way to learn the format of a patent application is to read and understand Issued patents, particularly Issued patents in one's specific field. Full-text-searchable Issued patents are available for free at both USPTO.gov as well as patents.google.com. 

IMPORTANT: try to read as many patents in your field as you can! Not to overcome them as Prior Art, but instead to see the language, tone, and vernacular of a patent disclosure.

Regarding "patent document", "patent example", which we will interpret as "examples of Issued Patents", it is possible to review and download literally millions of patents from the US patent database, at uspto.gov. This includes full-searchable text versions. Every inventor should want to read lots of patents by other inventors, particular in their chosen field. Doing so can be very helpful in understanding how to set up a patent disclosure.

However, such reading should NOT be performed for providing assurance that "no one else has done this". That is an example of a false-assurance, and a misreading of the US patent database. Instead, such reading should be for understanding the format of a patent disclosure, of the drawings, and of various aspects of the patent process which can only be ingested by assimilation. 

The inventors who obtain the best grasp of the patent system usually get there partly by reading Issued patents in their field. 

Next, the inquiry "can you sell a patent" is perhaps mis-phrased. A better way to phrase the question would be "can you LICENSE a patent", and the answer would be YES. But the assumption here would be that the patent would be protecting a concept that is cash-flowing, and generating Actual (non-hypothetical) cash flowing into an Actual (non-hypothetical) bank account and being Declared on an Actual (non-hypothetical) Tax Return.

A mere patent, by itself, that is not associated with a commercially viable product, is very seldom worth anything. However, there is an entire industry based on asserting such unfulfilled patents in Federal Court. This is not a good business model, and is seldom successful at anything other than keeping attorneys busy.

See our "Anatomy of a Patent App" section

This section is already quite long, so we only gave a rough overview. Including every detail of what we have prepared would make this section too long. For those interested entities, we give more details in a section called "anatomy of a patent app". 

Anatomy of a patent App

Patent Strategies

There are a lot of different considerations in structuring a patent strategy. Its difficult, and every situation is different, although most have one thing in common: lack of operating cash. Most of this website is aimed at entities with minimal free-cash-on-hand, but even within that, there are a variety of options. Just know that patents are always time-consuming and expensive, either at the beginning or at the end. There is no avoiding this.

View some unusual patent strategies, save money

working with the U.S. patent Office

What happens inside the Patent Office?

Regarding the inquiry "patent office website", at least in the United States that website is USPTO.gov. All inventors interested in patent protection should be aware of this site. It is one of the most important sites inventors and counsel will ever use.

Regarding the inquiries "how do i patent something", "patent it myself", "intellectual property registration", "how patents work", "how do i get a patent for my idea", "patent something", "how do you get something patent", "how to file for patent", "how to get something patented", this site should be able to at least get someone started on responses to these inquiries. Again, leaving aside hiring counsel, this YouTube video showing how to use the US Patent Office Electronic Filing System (EFS) is a good place to start.

Moving to "working with the patent office", this is one one of our favorite inquiries. Nobody, absolutely no-one, gets a patent Issued without working with the Patent Office at least to some extent. You can either hire counsel, or do it yourself, but someone is going to be working with the Patent Examiner, or there will not be a Patent Issued. Know that. Accept that. Also be aware that the job of a patent Examiner is very tightly constrained, they have only a limited amount of flexibility to help you. 

The phrase "intellectual property  registration" is unclear, and its possible this refers to Trademarks rather than Patents. Anyone interested in more information about trademarks can check out this site, which again is mainly informational, intended to be used as a resource, contains lots of trademark examples, and is not trying to sell anything. The expression "register a patent" is occasionally used, and although it is slightly incorrect, most people will understand the intended meaning.

In the end, because these inquiries are kind of vague, its unclear where to further direct them.

For anyone wanting to file a patent themselves, electronically, this is an excellent YouTube video which shows how to do this. Beware, the process is difficult, and non-intuitive. Further, the YouTube video only show how to FILE the application and pay the fees, but does not discuss DRAFTING the application.

Moving on to the inquiries "how to register a patent", "patent register", and "patent registration process", the semantics of these inquiries are incorrect. Patents never get Registered, Patent applications (may) get Issued. Trademarks get Registered, and that is a very different process than patents. 

Instead, the inquiry will be read as "how to OBTAIN a patent", or better yet, "how to get a patent Issued". This requires full participation in the patent process, all the way through, including completely obeying the patent statutes for Utility patent applications. Meanwhile, the information within this site is directed more for inventors wanting to file for provisional patent.

Regarding the inquiries "intellectual property patent law", "patent yourself", "us patents", "patent process", "patent an invention", "obtaining a patent", "how do you apply for a patent", "how to patent your invention", "patent writing", "file for patent", "patent law", "process of getting a patent", "american patent", "how to file a patent application", these appear to refer to the patent filing process itself, for the most part. If so, an excellent YouTube video exists very clearly demonstrating how the Electronic Filing Process works. No attorney is required. The landing (front) page of this website points to a YouTube channel which makes this video available. The video was created by the Inventors Learning Center (inventorslc.com), an non-profit organization which tries to help inventors. In many ways, their site is an even better resource for inventors than this site.


finding patent counsel you can work with

Patent Law Firms


If you arrived at this site looking for information about "patent practitioner", "lawyer intellectual property", "patent and trademark attorneys", "registered patent agent", "registered patent attorney", "patent attorney", "patent services", "patent help", "chemical patent attorney", "what to ask your attorney regarding patent", "find a patent attorney", "intellectual property lawyer", "patent lawyer", "patent firm", "patent counsel", and/or something similar, then you are in the right place! 

There are literally thousands of patent attorneys and law firms that would love to have your business. Here is just one such firm, of many. 

 Still, if you want to hire patent counsel, you have several choices. There are lots of law firms that would like to have your business. Its very easy to do a Google search on "patent attorneys in <your state>" that alone will likely produce a lot of prospects. But you should also be aware that many patent attorneys never meet their clients in person, you do not need to hire someone in your own State, and that most of the work of drafting/filing a patent application gets performed remotely, over the Internet. 

But before consulting any counsel, please be aware that inventors are permitted by law to file their own patent applications. The information on this site is directed mostly at these types of inventors, the self-filers. 

Again, as stated, the information on this site is to help inventors Get Started in the patent process, and discusses mostly Provisional patent issues, not Utility patent issues, and certainly not International protection.

Either way, whether anyone engages counsel or not, this site can save inventors money and time by increasing inventors' understanding of the patent process and the form and content of a patent application.

Regarding the inquiries "patent advisor", "patent support", "patent consultant", "patent assistance", "patent management", we find these inquiries interesting! There are many useful and important tasks related to the patent process that do not require an attorney! 

If you want to know more about these tasks, and services, please contact us.

Regarding the inquiry "patent examiner", this is the job-Title for the person within the Patent Office who reviews your patent application,

should you file one. This is not someone appointed by the Inventor, and is not something that the Examiner has any choice about. However, the author of this website is a former Examiner and can tell you a lot about the process. You can reach us here. Because of the nature of the information being exchanged, phone calls do not work as effectively.

The patent process is a very document-oriented process, and not a verbal or spoken-word process. This is partly because it is often necessary to send documents, links, and URLs that aid in responding to specific inquiries.

Before you appoint any patent counsel, it is best to be fully-informed about the patent process. Doing so could save money and time.

Many lay-persons (non patent professionals) have been surprised and disappointed when they find out how the patent process actually works. They are also often disappointed at the legal expenses they have incurred, some of which could have been avoided,

and others which may have been unwise.

Regarding the inquiry "patent attorney near me", patent practice is different than other forms of law in that in-person direct contact with the attorney is less necessary. The entire relationship usually takes place over e-mail or other type of secure portal (only minimally over the telephone). This is because even if the patent counsel and inventor meet in person, the important work will not occur until they review and exchange various invention-related and

inventor-related patent documents. 

Thus, your patent attorney of choice does not necessarily need to be near you. But they definitely need to be available via e-mail.

Finding your counsel

The US Patent Office patent database can be used for a lot of commercial reasons not related to reading patents. For example, one can review and compare various patent counsel using the search engine. But its tricky and time-consuming to understand the search-interface.

How to use the Patent Office search engine

patent costs

Costs can vary a lot from one attorney to the next.


If you arrived at this site inquiring as to "patent attorney fees", "how much is a patent", "patent price", "cost to patent an idea", "how much it cost to patent an idea", "how much does it cost to get a patent", "how much is a provisional patent", "how much does it cost to file a patent", "how much is it to patent an idea", "patent cost", "provisional patent application cost", "app patent cost", "how much does a patent cost", "how much does a provisional patent cost", "cheap patents", "how much to patent an app", "how much does it cost to file a provisional patent", "how much does it cost to get something patented",

"how much is a patent cost", "cheap patent", "how expensive is a patent", "how much to get a patent", "how much does it cost to patent an idea worldwide", "cost to file a patent",

"how much to patent a product", "how much does it cost to patent an app", "how much is it to get a patent", "cost to file provisional patent", "patents cheap", "cost to get a patent", "how much does it cost to patent a product", and/or something similar, then the answer will be the same. 

No attorney will quote you out a rate until they have some idea of how much work needs to be done.


Two of the biggest factors in determining your costs are:

  1) how developed is your invention, how far along is it, and

  2) how much of the work are you willing to learn and do yourself?  That is, what materials exactly are you going to hand over to the patent professional.

Every single patent professional on earth will want/need to know this, before giving you a cost-estimate. The creators of this website are no different. 

Information about the costs of a typical patent application can be found by doing a Google search using "typical patent costs".

It has been our experience that most Utility patent applications do not cost less than $3000, and the expenses do not stop with filing. Further, it is preferred that a utility application have at least 20 pages of disclosure and at least 15 drawings. One should plan on waiting at least 2 years, and considerable other expenses, before a patent (if any) Issues.

An interesting set of alternatives can be found on Fiverr.com, in which service providers offer to file a Utility application in the range of $300. It is unclear how exactly they achieve this, and unclear how many of these applications ever result in an actual Issued patent.


patents and crowdfunding

Lots of Ways to Screw This up


Regarding  inquiries such as "patents and crowdfunding", "crowdfunding and patents", "crowdfunding a patent", and/or something similar, then you are in the right place! Crowdfunding and the patent process have many important components in common. Some of the work done in setting up a crowdfunding campaign can be used in your patent application. However, the specific details are difficult to briefly explain.

Suffice to say, one (not the only) suitable strategy would be to take all the invention-related information in the crowdfunding campaign, and file that with the US Patent Office in a Provisional application. This can be done without an attorney.

A quick summary of some widely misunderstood crowdfunding principles, especially as they relate to patents.

Crowdfunding data can be misleading. Below are some uncomfortable, unpleasant truths about CrowdFunding (CF).


1) This is excellent for getting an idea of why other campaigns failed.  A lot of very useful information there, accurate reliable information.

2) However, such reviews are not as effective as one thinks for getting an idea of why other campaigns succeeded.  That is a very different question, and some of the campaigns that appear to have met their goal, in fact did not meet their goal.  Their campaigns actually stunk.  However, they “faked” success by channeling their own money through straw-donors.

Next, it is really important to do the following.  

3) How many of the campaigns that succeeded, still never actually delivered a working, usable product?  You will note there is no easy to look this up.  But it’s a hugely important, critical statistic.  Just because they got their "ask"?  That means the CF campaign “succeeded”?  NO, NOT AT ALL!  NO!

4) The crowdfunding campaigns we can see are not the end of the story.   How many campaigns never launched at all?  Because during the “seeding” process (see below), the people realized that this product stinks.  Nobody wants it!  How many people were saved from embarrassment by proper pre-launch seeding and polling.  They never launched at all!  Searches of existing CF Campaigns will not find these examples of excellent, intelligent CF planning.  But this (catching mistakes early, identifying “dogshit” ideas early) is perhaps the most important single lesson of CF!

5) A big misunderstanding of Crowdfunding is what people offer in return for donations, the specific “swag”, etc.  Lets say someone is making a new style of bicycle motor, and they want to crowdfund it.  That inventor “thinks” they must offer a finished motor, ready-to-install, on the bicycle, in order to attract CF donors.  This is so mistaken, so wrong in so many ways, on so many levels.   This misunderstanding greatly increases their chance of failure, and also leads to having angry donors flaming them on the Internet.

6) 90% of donors must come from donors one has not met personally, and must be totally outside the inventor's existing circle of acquaintances;

7) Many successful CF campaigns “seed” their audience for at least 3-4 months prior to launch, and potentially longer than that.  And “seeding” costs money and effort. Seeding also costs time and effort and careful, painstaking research.  There is a lot to this, and a lot of myths/canards about this.  To heck with an existing 10%, one has to make yourself attractive to that 90%!

8) You must be careful what you ask for, very few campaigns exceed $25K in donations.  Some do, yes, but very few.  If you need more than that, Crowdfunding may not work well for you.  Here is a real problem:  most small businesses need more than $25K.  And these people read about someone raising >=$100K, and thus discount this advice and think we are mistaken.  But these >=$100K campaigns are statistical outliers.


We also try to get our clients to please watch the YouTube videos of 1) Clay Hebert  2) Danae Ringlemann 3) Eli Regolado.  Theses cut through a lot of the myths.  They are free, and helpful, a good education.

Yes, these persons are selling something (e.g. professional seeding and CF management).  But what they are selling needs to be done, either you do it or your hire someone.  But without proper seeding, a CF campaign will likely fail.  Seen it many times. In fact, we’ve never seen a CF campaign work where the person did not first do extensive seeding first.


There is a lot of smoke, snake oil, and crap floating about the Internet.  Make sure to penetrate through this.


patent searches

The single most misunderstood problem in all of patent law!


Te queries "patent check", "patent search tools", "ip search", "patent filing search", "food patent examples", "patent prior art", "patent prior art search", "prior art", "patent evaluation", "how to find a patent, "patent research", "provisional patent search", "patent lookup", "advanced patent search", "patent search services", "ip patent search", "uspto patent application search", "how to check if a product is patented", "how to research patents", "patent application search", and "patent search cost", these are extremely salient and relevant queries, requiring careful consideration and are important to discuss.

First, every single inventor should know how to use the patent search database at uspto.gov, and should not rely on counsel or someone else to understand how this resource works. Its too important. All inventors should learn this.

Next, regarding "provisional patent search", provisional applications are not published and thus cannot be searched. There is no way to affirm or verify that someone has filed Provisionally without seeing their filing Receipt.


Be aware! Bad news is coming! Patent searches are hugely misunderstood (and often over-valued)

If you queried any of the below, you are in the right place! The list includes "patent check", "patent search tools", "ip search", "patent filing search", "food patent examples", "patent prior art", "sell your idea without a patent", "patent prior art search", "prior art", "patent evaluation", "how to find a patent", "patent research", "provisional patent search", "patent lookup", "advanced patent search", "patent search services", "ip patent search" "uspto patent application search", "how to check if a product is patented", "how to research patents", "patent application search", "patent search cost".

Lets get the bad news out right away. Doing a patent search has value, but not for the reasons you likely think. This is an area that inventors are consistently mistaken.

First, any search performed by an inventor usually means absolutely nothing to the patent Examiner, who will do his/her own search. This will likely be a much better search. As a former Examiner I sometimes do searches for clients, but am always careful to educate my client that it doesn't matter what we find or don't find.

The job of a patent Examiner is, among other things, to guard the US Patent System from Allowance that should not have happened. This protects the integrity of the US patent system. But it also means that all applicants should plan to be Rejected on their First, Second, and usually Third Office Actions (documents from the patent Examiner).  This means it will be years before anyone gets a patent, and only after a lot of rejection and expense.

I have been practicing patent law for >22 years. I often act as an inventor's "second patent attorney" because their first patent attorney charged too much, and did not properly communicate how the patent system really works. And then the inventor fired that law firm, and went looking for someone else to clean up the mess. That someone else is often this law firm.

One of the biggest cons we see is attorneys selling an innocent, naive inventor a $2000 patent search. They convince the inventor that their chances of getting a patent are relatively high, based on this search.

What these attorneys don't properly communicate is that the chances of getting a patent are directly proportional to length and depth of disclosure. That means the patent disclosure should have at least 20 pages of text-Description and at least 15 pages of Drawings.

Inventors: always make your patent disclosures long, with a lot of depth. Lots of drawings and text. This is the single biggest indicator, by far, as to whether someone will get a patent or not. Not a Patent Search that you performed yourself! Those don't mean anything to the Patent Office!

This is one of the single biggest myths and canards in the entire patent/invention industry, and we see this much more than other problems and disappointments. Even if the search had favorable results, if the attorney wrote the patent disclosure to be too brief, not enough embodiments, not enough variations, not enough drawings, not enough pages, these inventors often don't get a patent. Despite the favorable search results, many inventors do not get a patent! And they are upset!

Next, be aware, patent Examiners do not just search patents for their Prior Art Rejections, but also search YouTube, Amazon, Kickstarter, eBay, Instagram, Google, and many other non-patent resources. These can yield an immense amount of useful information and Prior Art.   With the area of Mobile App inventions (tens of thousands of Mobile Apps have patent protection), an inventor can plan on the patent Examiner researching and asserting other Mobile Apps found in either iTunes, Google Play, or other Mobile App repositories.

Do your own patent search! Don't pay anyone!

We are not against patent searching. We are against misinterpreting the results of any patent search. We operate by some simple rules in this area.

1) Do your own patent search!  Don't pay anyone!

2) Use the patents you find as templates an guides on how to set up your own patent disclosure. The best way to learn patent drafting is to read Issued patents!  And that is good for any inventor to know!

3) Do not assume that the patent search you perform indicates any useful information about a) whether you will get a patent, and/or b) whether your invention will commercialize or not.  Patent searches have nothing to do with either of these!

do your own patent search at USPTO.gov

unusual patent strategies (that can save money)

Not Legal Advice! Just raising awareness



If you searched on "patent discussion", "patent audio discussion", "patent podcast", this site hosts a very limited set of audio recordings discussing various patent issues.


If your concern is "how much to patent a name", "protect my brand", "how to patent a slogan", "trademark my brand", "protect a brand", "how to patent a word", "can you patent a name", these are not patent-related inquiries, but instead trademark-related.

Certainly feel free to ask us your trademark questions directly here, but this is more of a patent site. 

Our trademark site is USAtrademarks.info, and the above questions, and many others, are answered there.


If you search on "method patent", "product and process patent", we are happy to discuss this! And this is an intelligent search, and we wish more inventors were informed on this. Its a very often-overlooked aspect of patent law. 


Because Provisional patent applications are so low-cost (as low as $70/apiece), we always like to recommend inventors self-file lots of Provisional applications. Depending on how much the invention pivots and changes, and also on how many offers for sales and public disclosures are made, there are ways to "ladder" Provisional and even Utility patent filings . This is somewhat similar to a "bond ladder" strategy. Its hard to briefly explain, except that doing lots of patent filings at hopefully low cost is a patent strategy that can have better than average RoI.

It is possible to file new and distinct Provisional patent applications any time you want, and put anything in it you want. Just remember, each separate Provisional has a separate filing date and conveys a separate bundle of legal rights.  However, in some cases, these legal rights can be combined. That is, a Utility patent application can claim Priority to >1 Provisional filing. This in a way provides a “best of both worlds” scenario. An inventor can achieve multiple filing dates (important), and yet obtain multiple sets of coverage.

Once an inventor gets to Utility stage, its necessary to be a bit more committed to a specific embodiment. At Utility stage, strive for at least 20 pages of Specification (text) and at least 15 pages of drawings).

Prior to Utility stage, inventors should feel free to experiment, try out different versions and embodiments of their invention(s), and write up and file the ones they think will sell.

There is another feature of this filing-strategy that corresponds to bond-laddering. That is letting certain of the lower rated bonds expire. If interest rates go up, do not renew that bond. By the same token, if one invention does not appear to be on a good path towards commercialization, while another invention does, allow the "dud" Provisional to just lapse (expire), without transforming it into Utility.

There are many other factors involved in doing this, such as 35 USC 102 implications, but this portion of the website is intended to explain patent laddering, not give legal advice.


No, this has nothing to do with getting your favorite patent staggeringly drunk. Instead, its a patent-strategy that is a derivative of patent-laddering. Patent staggering refers to an inventor that is doing regular improvements and alterations to one or more inventions, including unrelated inventions. The word "staggering" relates to doing this according to some kind of schedule, e.g. every 3 months, dropping all new drawings, photographs, spreadsheets, and write-up into PDF files and then self-filing them.  At $70/filing, its a cost-effective way to make sure innovations all get covered as they happen.

This is especially helpful for an inventor who is working on e.g. 5 different inventions, and is unsure which of them may be the first to commercialize. Put them all into one single omnibus filing, and throw the whole thing into the patent office for $70.

Regarding patents, make sure you understand what you will be spending, and that you understand the RoI!  Its very uncertain!  Think of patents more as "invention insurance", a legally required instrument, but one in which the RoI is often very diffused and unclear.

Provisional v. utility v. international patents, why this choice is difficult.

The difference between a Provisional patent application versus a Utility patent application versus an International patent application are large, and profound. Its important than an inventor have some idea of how these play off each other. But its very deep and difficult to briefly explain, thus is given its own separate page. This condensed explanation appears at the link below.

Patents are difficult, & expensive

If you want to know more about patent strategies, you need to be realistic about how the patent system really works, including some uncomfortable truths.

Visit our section "The Truth About Patents".

Truth About Patents


Yes they do Exist!

This is discussed elsewhere in this site in more detail, but we include a brief link here because we get so many questions about it.

The truth about Canna-Patents

This section strives to overcome all the myths and misunderstandings regarding canna-patents. We try to address the most asinine myths elsewhere in this site, as shown below.

Canna-inventions and the patent system

Inventor FAQs


Read these FAQs to make sure you want to work with this law firm.

1) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the single biggest problem inventors have".

Nobody wants the invention.  The invention does not really solve any problem, or it solves a problem less effectively than many already-existing products.  We see this problem more than all other factors combined.  In fact, it is our default setting when we meet a new inventor.  We always assume this scenario until proven otherwise. In 20 years of practice, this is the scenario more than 90% of the time.  Nobody wants the invention.  IF NOBODY WANTS THE INVENTION, PATENTS ARE NOT GOING TO HELP YOU!

In the United States, inventors are allowed a 1-year Grace Period in which they can pursue their invention commercially before they are required to file for patent or lose their patent rights. 1 year should be sufficient time to determine whether an invention has commercial viability or not.

While this grace-period option may not be wise for all inventors, every inventor should at least be aware of their rights in this area.

2) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the second single biggest problem inventors have".

The inventors lack sufficient capital to bring the product to market. They simply do not have enough money to manage all the necessary expenses of getting an invention into a sellable format, and then actually achieving sales. This is understandable because its usually pretty expensive and complex to getting an invention into a sellable format, and then actually achieving sales. A lot of factors must work together in a proper way.  A lot of things can go wrong, many of which are beyond the control of the inventor.


3) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the third single biggest problem inventors have".

The inventors are trying to enter an industry they are not familiar with.  In estimating an inventor's chances of success, one factor is how many different obstacles have they already overcome as part of their day-job. If their day-job is in field X, and their invention is in field X, that scenario has a higher chance of achieving economic success. If their day-job is in field X, and their invention is in field Y, that scenario has a lower chance of achieving economic success. If the do not have a day-job at all, pursuing an invention often ends up being more of an expensive hobby than anything resembling an actual business.

4) "Will you do your patent-work for a share in the invention?" 

No.  Never.  

If you cannot self-fund your invention, you should not be pursuing it until you can the funds. Further, the only service providers who are any good will require payment in-cash. Up-front.  Ahead of time.

5) "When I get paid, you get paid".

This is the same thing as saying "no one will ever get paid".  Pass.  Good luck.

6) "I just want to sell the idea".

Never happens.  Forget it.  Any licensee worth having will want to see a) a proven track record of actual sales, b) an actual-working model, and c) some indication of customer-acceptance.


These a), b), and c) cost money and time to build, and are necessary in order to even begin the process of licensing an invention.  Further, even if you have all these a), b), and c), you may still lose every cent you put in.

Pursuing inventions are not for the faint-hearted, and not for the under-capitalized. If you don't have enough money to pursue an invention, you should stop right there until you do. Hoping that the money comes along later will not happen, never happens, unrealistic, forget it.

7) "I can't afford your rates".

Good.  Glad you said so.  No problem. You probably can't afford to be pursuing an invention anyway. We wish more clients would say this at the outset.  

Do not pursue an invention unless you have sufficient capital, at the beginning, to carry it all the way to market. Do not hope the money comes in later. Also, anything you pay a service provider, do not later try to request they return the money because the invention didn't do well.

8) "I can raise the money though Crowdfunding". 

Doubt it.  Unlikely.  >70% of crowdfunding campaigns fail. Further, many other Crowdfunding campaigns that would have failed never get launched in the first place.

Also, a good crowdfunding campaign often requires spending up-front capital, and a lot of work and effort, prior to launch. One might spend $3.5K to get a yield of e.g. $13.5K e.g. 4 months later.

Inventors often misunderstand the reasons why crowdfunding campaigns succeed, and why they fail. In both cases there is a lot of misinformation and inaccuracy. Further, a failed crowdfunding campaign is a very important negative indicator to a later investor.  This site discusses crowdfunding and inventions elsewhere, please click here if you want to know more.

9) "Can you find me someone to help make my invention?".

YES!  THANK YOU for asking! All inventors should be focusing on this (yet few do). This law firm (and some-time provider of non-legal services) has been assisting inventors with finding appropriate service providers since 2003. However, plan on spending money. No decent service provider will work for a share of the invention. All work for cash, non-refundable, must be paid in advance. Payment is never contingent on the invention’s success. 


Next, inventors who ask this question early, are usually better clients and more astute about their prospects.  We wish more people would ask this question. Getting your invention properly made, and sold, is much much more important than your patent protection.  By a factor of about 20:1.  Patents have their place, yes, but getting the invention made and sold or at least sellable-condition is much more important.

10) "If I could just get 1% of the market . . .".

This inventor should be saying "If I could just make one unit, and have one successful sale . . .".  That should be the goal.  No ever starts with "1% of the market".  They start with -one sale-. Also, people who use this expression (a common inventor-psychosis) clearly do not understand "the market".

11) "Should we wait until a patent issues before licensing?"

No.  Worst and dumbest, most piss-poor strategy ever taken.  Hugely self-defeating. First, this "wait" could be a long time, perhaps 2 or 3 years.  During that time you should be out there proving your market, using the "patent pending" designation.  Patents do not come quickly.

Second, you may not ever get a patent! Many perfectly solid patent applications do not ever result in a patent!  There are over 2600 different patent Examiners, each with a different style and job-responsibilities.  Do not fall into the trap of false-assurance that you are certain to be awarded a patent.  This is never a certainty.  It does not matter whether you had a patent search done by an attorney or not, get rid of this certainty! It doesn't exist.  Its a fallacy, a canard.

12) "This invention will sell itself"

No invention ever "sells itself". This does not happen. If you think this, you are in the wrong business. Get rid of your "inventor's psychosis". Further, if it really "sold itself", why isn't it selling? Why have you never sold any units?

13) "I have been burned by an Invention Submission Corporation. Can you help me get my money back?"

No. No one can. We have met about 40-50 people who have learned this painful lesson. There is usually not much anyone can do. But if you go through these FAQs carefully, including improving your understanding of the patent process, you might increase your chances of success the 2nd time around. 

14) "Should I go to trade shows?"

Yes. In fact, you probably won't succeed without going to trade shows. In this day of constant Internet communication, oversharing, etc, there is a growing movement and backlash of people who want to meet and do business in person. Many persons with significant influence don't want to do business with someone they have never met. Further, trade shows provide an excellent way to better understand one's market, and be around people in a specific, targeted industry and see examples of successful products.  But these cost money.


Those clients of ours that refuse to do this, we end up -firing- them.

15) "What if someone steals my invention?"

Why would they want to?  Many inventions take at least 1 year of full-time work before they begin to return any capital at all.  Who would want to "steal" a full-time job for no pay?

The people who say this, have a type of "persecution psychosis" and/or "inventors psychosis".  Almost always, the people who take this position, their idea is 1) already in existence, and has been for many years AND\OR 2) pedestrian, boring, solves a (perceived) problem that does not actually exist, thus not worth stealing in the first place.

Again, inventors who over-focus on this question need a psychiatrist, not an attorney.

16) "What about the inventor with the windshield wipers?"

The inventor with the windshield wipers was Dr. Robert Kearns, subject of the <extremely dull> film "Flash of Genius" (2008), starring Greg Kinnear. Originally, Ford was interested in working with Dr. Kearns, totally on-the-level and will to pay fair value for his inventions.  But Dr. Kearns, mentally unstable and having an extremely hostile and unpleasant personality, made himself so difficult to work with that in the end he screwed himself out of every good chance he had. This is an excellent, interesting story, but is a statistical anomaly. Do not expect this type of problem to happen to you.

Below, in our "Books and Media Helpful for Inventors" section, you will see that we include a link to Amazon to buy this movie, as it contains several excellent patent lessons. However, it is also wildly misunderstood.

Anyone who has watched this film, and understands it well, they get a $ Discount on any services we provide. It is rare that we run into anyone that has ever seen this film and gotten anything out of it. Most people shut if off. Its very dull and strange.

17) "Should I do a patent search prior to pursuing this invention?"

You should do a search, yes, but that search should be of the marketplace, not just patents, and should encompass other similar products that have achieved commercial success in this marketplace, and why.


Many successful inventions do not have patents.  Meanwhile, many patented inventions never make a dime, but instead cost their owners a great deal of money.  This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of bringing an invention to market.  The importance of patents is wildly misunderstood. The nexus or joinder between patents and commercial success is extremely tenuous. More information about this popular myth can be found here.

18) "I want to know how to get a patent. Can you help me with this?"

YES. However, this section is directed mostly to helping you get a patent application FILED. Just filing alone is only one part of the process of getting a patent ISSUED. That is a separate series of steps that takes a long time. However, no one, ever, has gotten a patent ISSUED without first having some type of patent application FILED. 

Thus, the first step in how to get a patent is to FILE. And you can file more than once, and you can learn from your mistakes. Its difficult, but the patent process is worth knowing.

"Shark Tank" and Y-combinator applications

The Shark Tank and Y-combinator applications are very instructive and helpful for entrepreneurs.

SharkTank-9-Initial-Application-Packet (pdf)


Dropbox Y-combinator application (docx)


Books and Media for Inventors

How an Examiner will consider your patent application

Cover for "How to Save Money On Patents" book

This book illustrates several valuable steps in the patent-drafting and patent-filing process. 92 pages, written by a former Patent Examiner. Paperback version is $12.15, Kindle version is 99 cents.

Buy it on Amazon!

Accurate account of Lori's success


Of all the different books by Shark Tank panelists, we feel this is the best. Lori Greiner keeps it real, keeps it accurate. Lori discusses her >90 patents, and also discusses her relationships with her vendors and suppliers. This is an area Often Neglected by inventors.

Buy it on Amazon!

"Joy" (2015) movie starring Jennifer Lawrence


Frankly, this film is pretty dull.  But it contains several excellent lessons on the patent system and patenting inventions. The film is not great, but serves as an excellent resource for novice inventors, which Joy Mangano was.

Buy it on Amazon!

One of Stephen Key's best books


Steven Key has written several books, but this is one of the best.  Note the emphasis on "with or without a patent". We Agree!

Buy it on Amazon!

"Flash of Genius" (2008) movie starring Greg Kinnear


This movie has inspired an entire new generation of paranoid inventors, all convinced that everyone is out to steal their (usually worthless) invention. Nonetheless, after getting past the "inventors psychosis", this movie still has several useful lessons.

Buy it on Amazon!