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Filing a patent is more straightforward than you may think, though it still requires thorough detail, time and money. Here’s a breakdown of how to patent your idea.

Which first: patent or prototype?

While you don’t need a prototype to file a patent, official patents need to be very, very detailed so it may be a good idea. When you file your patent, you’ll need to have:

  • detailed notes
  • diagrams
  • measurements
  • drawing or pictures

We see a lot of prototypes fabricated in our facility, and even the smallest elements need to be documented in a patent. Make sure your product is detailed in full.


You won’t be able to file a patent if someone has already created your product or something similar, so it’s important to do your research beforehand. The good news is you can really use any source, but use as many sources as you can.

Use scientific journals, a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, the database of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or even internet searches. You need to be able to show how your invention is different than any similar existing products so dig deep while doing your research.

Protecting your idea

You aren’t legally required to patent your idea, but this helps protect your product from being used by another person or company.

You’ll also want to sign and date your documentation throughout your inventing processes, and try to have witnesses sign your documentation as well.

It’s also good to avoid disclosing the details of your product to people or companies before it’s patented. You never know who may want to create the product themselves and benefit from the income.

Filing a patent

Once you have the details prepped, you can file with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This agency helps people and companies keep their patents and trademarks secure.

There are two ways to file a patent. You can file a provisional patent application, which allows you to temporarily protect your idea while you file an official patent application. To file a provisional application, you’ll need a detailed description and possible a simple but legible drawing. These applications are only good for 12 months.

The second and official way to file a patent is with a non-provisional (or regular) patent application. Non-provisional applications are more rigorous and more detailed. You’ll need to provide intricate notes and drawings showing what distinguishes the invention from anything else.


There’s a noticeable price difference between the two types of patents you can file. Filing a PPA costs around $65 to $260 depending on your “entity” size (whether you’re one person or an entire corporation). This is assuming you’ll file on your own and not with the help of a lawyer since it’s pretty straightforward.

To write and file an RPA on your own costs about $900. This is all in fees that are paid to the USPTO. If you choose to hire a lawyer to help you (which is recommended—it can get pretty complicated), can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, mostly in legal fees.


Need help prototyping your patent? Talk to out materials engineers now. We’ll walk you through the process of fabricating your design to be ready for your patent.

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