“Patent It Yourself” by David Pressman, Nolo Press
This is the best self-help book for patents out there. This book takes you through almost every possible stage of the patenting process, and also includes useful information on copyrights and trademarks. Every inventor should have a copy regardless of whether or not you are planning on writing your patent yourself.
Manual of Patent Examination Procedure
This is the patent examiner’s bible. Almost anything you might need to know about the patent process is contained within this 3000+ page tome. Although long, it is clearly written and the place to turn to if you have questions about US Code Title 35 or the Code of Federal Regulations Title 37.
US Code: Title 35 – Patents
Code of Federal Regulations: Title 37 – Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights
Sections 1.1 through 1.997 of 37 CFR are the rules of practice for patents, and Sections 1 through 309 of 35 USC are the statutes pertaining to patents. These are certainly not light reading.
Regarding patentability searches ...
Doing a patentability search online can be relatively straightforward or almost impossible, depending on the field. For searches in technologies which extend back a few decades there are often many synonyms which might be used and online keyword searches are challenging. In such cases, hiring a searcher to go through the physical files at the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is often the best option. One searcher I recommend is RWS Group.
For newer technologies or more scientific inventions, online keyword searches can be effective, particularly if you utilize Booleans in the search terms. Both Google and the US PTO have comprehensive online patent databases. I feel that Google's patent database has a better interface than the US Patent Office's. For instance, with Google's interface downloading the pdf of a patent just requires a click, whereas from the US PTO's website you have to order it. However, the US PTO does have a good online tutorial on how to perform a seven-step search process that utilizes both the PTO's invention classification system and keywords.
US Patent and Trademark Office's Electronic Filing System (EFS)
The Patent Office provides a reduced fee for online filings via the EFS. The EFS system is less buggy than it was a few years ago, but one can still run into problems. However, the people at the EFS hotline (1-866-217-9197) are very competent and helpful.
Design patents used to be something of a backwater in the field of patents. But with the popularity of phone apps and the increasing importance of graphical user interfaces, design patents are experiencing a rise in popularity. (The number of design patents issued per year increased by about 50% from 2004 to 2014.)
For the ratio of size-of-market to cost, patenting an invention in the United States generally provides the best "bang for the buck," often by a factor of ten or more. However, foreign filings can be worth the expenditures for lucrative inventions. I recommend what I term the Risk (the board game) strategy for foreign filings, i.e., choosing one or two key countries in each continent. The key countries are typically those that have the largest populations, or those that are crucial distribution points such as where trade shows or important ports of entry are located.
The United States is party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) which allows foreign filing and prosecution costs to be forestalled by the filing of an intermediate-stage international application through the World Intellectual Property Organization. This provides additional time to gauge the market potential of your invention, and the PCT examination process allows one to fine tune the claims before proceeding to the more expensive national filings.
The information provided here is intended as general background information and does not constitute legal advice.