Q: the first step in obtaining a patent?
i have a product that is needed? what is my first step?
I love for all my clients to read some patents in their space. That way they know what level of detail goes into a patent. Here is a link to my slide set that teaches entrepreneurs how to use free tools to look for relevant patents and applications. https://bit.ly/Patent__Searching
The next step is that you need to find a patent attorney that is not just adept at grinding out patent applications but is also good at explaining the patent process to you. Not all patent attorneys like spending the time to explain the relevant options. As you are in NC, you should check in with North Carolina's Small Business Technology Development Center https://sbtdc.org/ I am a big fan of this organization that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses generally for free. I am speaking at one of their events in March (on the SBIR/STTR process).
If what you have is a tangible thing that an engineer made better, I might be the right fit. Much of my work is with medical devices and surgical methods but I do a range of work that involves mechanical engineering or control systems.
I hope that this helps.
Kevin E Flynn
BTW -- you are not legally required to have a working prototype. However, many people learn so much making a working prototype that their patent application moves to a new level when they do so.
You cannot make changes to add substance to a patent application after you file it (unless you file a Continuation-in-Part which uses the new filing date for the new material). So it is very helpful to know enough to get your first application right.
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