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How to Patent a Program
Michael J Foycik Jr
by Michael J Foycik Jr.

The author is a patent attorney with over 28 years experience in patents and trademarks. For further information, please email at IP1lwyr@gmail.com, or call at 877-654-3336.
A program
Each “how to patent” subject is discussed in detail below. Here are ways to get a patent. A computer program can be copyrighted, but it can also often be patented. The types of protection are very different. Specifically, the inventive steps of the program can be patented, and because of this the patent can provide protection far beyond just the specific program language used.

First, a drawing is made showing the most important steps of the program as a flowchart diagram. It is usually not necessary to give every detail of the operation of the program; instead, the main features should be illustrated. The program should be protected by a utility patent application, since that will cover any type of program language. This is also sometimes called a “regular” patent application. The program steps can be explained in words and by the flowchart drawings. The drawings do not need to be like blueprints. And, it is not necessary to have a working program, as long as the steps could be followed by a skilled programmer.

This is a good point to mention that there is also something called a “provisional patent application” that gives patent pending status for one year, permitting a utility patent application to be filed at any time during that year. This is much less expensive, and is recommended when there is an urgent need to get something one file, for example just prior to a trade show or publication. Further below, there is a section called “How to patent using a provisional patent application.”

Here's a simple example showing how to patent an idea for a simple and amusing invention, where a computer program is used. The program determines sequential prime numbers and activates a light for a time corresponding to the prime number. Here, the blinking light is connected to a pencil eraser. For the moment, we aren't concerned with whether it has been done before, it is just an example. For now, the idea would be expressed in words, written just as above. Let's say the steps are: determine prime numbers in sequence from 1; wait until that number of seconds has elapsed; then blink the light ON for a number of seconds equal to the value of the prime number that has been reached. These steps would be shown in a simple flowchart. And, since it is possible to illustrate the idea in a drawing, we would also add a sketch showing where the light should be placed on the eraser. What else should be shown? The light should have a power source, for example a small solar panel or a small battery, and connecting wires should be shown connecting the power source to the light.

Next, a claim is added to describe the invention broadly, such as the following: Claim 1: A method for activating a light such that the light indicates the value of a determined number, comprising the steps of: the step of determining a sequential prime number from a starting value; the step of waiting a number of seconds corresponding to the determined prime number; the step of blinking the light ON for a number of seconds equal to the value of the determined prime number in the preceding step; replacing the starting value with the determined prime number; and returning to the first step above.

Standard text is then added including sections titled: background of the invention; summary of the invention; brief description of the drawings; and an abstract of the disclosure. This part is not usually hard to do, but can be time consuming.

Then, a Declaration is prepared showing the name of the inventor and title of the invention. This is from a standard form provided by the US Patent Office. Ideally, a copy of the computer program itself is attached to the patent application when it is filed with the US Patent Office.

Last, a cover page including a Transmittal sheet is prepared, listing what is being filed with the US Patent Office. The Transmittal page normally will include a check for the amount of the US government filing fee, and a postcard filing receipt. The check can be omitted, as can the signed Declaration, but in that case the US Patent Office will send a notice asking for those items along with a relatively small late fee.

The drawings may or may not be accepted as filed. If not accepted, the US Patent Office sends a notice, and sets a time period for submitting the formal drawings. A specially skilled draftsman normally prepares the formal drawings, since the US Patent Office has very specific and detailed requirements for the drawings. We work with a skilled patent draftsman, to provide the formal drawings.

The application is examined by the US Patent Office. If granted, the application matures into a utility patent. A granted utility patent can be enforced in court, and it can be assigned and licensed too.

We can prepare a patent application for you, discussing how to patent your program. We would discuss it with you to find out your goals and interests, and what you are seeking to protect. We explain what might help, and the lowest cost ways to get the needed protection. This is at no charge. At this point we usually can provide a fixed fee estimate, based on your brief description of your idea. That is confidential. If you wish to proceed further, then you would provide one half the estimated amount in advance, and the other half after you have approved a final draft that is ready for filing with the US Patent Office.

And that is how to patent a program!
The author is a patent attorney with over 28 years experience in patents and trademarks. For further information, please email at IP1lwyr@gmail.com, or call at 877-654-3336.
 
 
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