This website illustrates how Civil Engineers may make greater use of the Global Patent System to Promote Progress in their Field.
The American Founders included Patent Rights in the United States Constitution to Promote Progress.
Patent Filing in the United States
U.S. Patenting
     A Civil Engineering Patent Applicant may file either a provisional or a nonprovisional application with the USPTO.  The provisional application requires less formalities and costs considerably less than filing a nonprovisional patent application.  However, to initiate patent prosecution in the United States, the Applicant must eventually file a nonprovisional application.  See Overview of Patent Prosecution in the U.S. for more on preparing patent applications.  With the U.S. transitioning to a first-to-file system by 2013, in which being the first to file an adequate patent application will typically defeat inventorship challenges by competitors, many Applicants may file provisional applications as soon as possible to secure an early filing date against rivals.  After filing the provisional application, the Applicant then has a year to evaluate whether to proceed further by preparing a nonprovisional patent application that claims benefit to the earlier provisional.      

     Typically, patent filing fees amount to a fraction of the costs of patent drafting.  Based on typical U.S. costs for patent preparation of a basic patent application covering a single invention, USPTO patent filing fees probably come in at about 15-20% of the Applicant's application drafting costs.  Filing costs can be deferred for several months, but the USPTO will extract a fee for such deferral.  For individual inventors who attempt to draft their own applications in the face of intricately complex U.S. and international patent laws and their numerous pitfalls, though, USPTO fees may comprise the greatest monetary burden. 

Practitioners tend to view USPTO fees as relatively low compared to the rest of the world.  Europe, for example, tends to have significantly higher patent fees, particularly when viewed in light of the size of market covered (see Patenting Worldwide).  Of course, USPTO fees only start with patent filing.  Applicants can expect to pay another $1000 to $2000 during patent prosecution (See RCE) and about another $2000 at issue.  The USPTO also charges progressively increasing patent maintenance fees during the life of the patent that approach a total of $10,000.  The USPTO does grant a nearly 50% discount to small entities, and the 2011 Patent Act even provides for a 75% discount to even smaller micro-entities.  Most individual inventors likely qualify as small entities and micro-entities, whereas most corporations probably do not.  The 2011 Patent Act also grants deep discounts to U.S. university researchers, but clouds are gathering on that horizon as critics question the justification for such a discount and whether it violates U.S. obligations under certain intellectual property treaties.  These treaties generally require equal treatment under U.S. patent law of both domestic and foreign entities, so critics question how U.S. universities may receive a discount while foreign universities do not.    

The USPTO is one of the few federal agencies that generates revenue sufficient to cover its operating costs.  The USPTO patent fee structure and the large amount of U.S. patents sought by both domestic and foreign entities, along with the fees from the trademark side of the USPTO fiefdom, generate the large stream of revenue that makes USPTO self-sufficiency possible.
Tappan Zee Bridge in New York
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