First you should fully document your idea with written description and drawings. You should also try to do a search for potentailly related patents (as close as you can find) by running keyword searches on Google Patents or USPTO.gov. Next you should meet with a patent attorney/agent to discuss your invention, prior art, and the potnetial patent filing options.
Once you file a utility patent, the process is slow and it will take many months to get an initial response, and there will be back and forth between the PTO and your patent attorney over various issues as you argue that the patent should be granted. This process may also require you to amend your patent application. The process takes at least a couple years.
The cost for preparing the application depends on the attorney you use and the complexity of the invention, but you can expect over $5k.
If I am offline when you response don't worry I will check back
Searching the USPTO is a good way to prevent wasting money on the rest of the process, I presume. Is a more thorough examination part of the filing process? Does the USPTO do one when we file? Or is this usually done by the filing law firm?
After the utility patent is filed, is that when "patent pending" comes into play?
How often to patent filings fail? When they fail, why? and is the cost lower if you don't go all the way through the process?
My question was not about evaluating my invention, so I left out the details of it.
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