It is not hard to get a patent if you invent something very unique, have the money to pay for the legal fees to pursue a patent, and are willing to take a patent of modest strength. These factors affect how likely it is for you to get a patent.
The uniqueness of your invention
To get a patent, the US Patent Office must consider your invention novel, nonobvious, and useful. Novel, meaning nobody has made your invention already. Nonobvious, meaning your invention is not simply a small change from an existing invention. Useful, meaning the invention can work. So, the more different your invention is, the higher the chances of the US Patent Office granting you a patent. If you take a toaster that toasts 2 slices of bread and turn it into a toaster that toasts 10 slices of bread, you probably have a low chance of getting a patent as the US Patent Office will likely say that simply adding more slots is too obvious of a change to get a patent. However, if you invent a time machine, you can be pretty sure you’ll get a patent.
Whether you have the money to pursue a patent
The reality of any legal process is that often those who have more money may have an advantage. The patent process is a legal process, one which is extremely complicated with a lot of rules. To navigate the patent application process effectively, you either need to read all the laws and rules on patents or hire a patent firm to represent you in pursuing your patent. Further, to try and obtain a patent you must go through a process. It is not as simple as sending in paperwork and the government gives you a patent in return. The process almost always involves back and forth discussion with the Patent Office. For example, the Patent Office may come back and say your invention is too similar to other inventions, which almost always happens. You then need to have your patent firm argue back the differences between your invention and the ones the Patent Office thinks are too similar. Back and forth discussions with the Patent Office may be needed to convince the Patent Office you deserve a patent. This requires time and labor by your patent firm which results in legal fees. Therefore, it is important to budget in money for legal fees for after the patent application is filed, for the process necessary to hopefully convince the patent office you deserve a patent. If you do not have the money for back-and-forth discussions with the Patent Office, you will have a lower chance of obtaining the patent than an inventor who has the money to keep fighting with the Patent Office.
The strength of the patent
A patent can be strong, weak, or somewhere in between. As a simple example, let’s say your invention is a round blue cup. If you can get a patent for all cups, that’s a strong patent, you could prevent others from making all cups of any shape and color. However, if you get a patent for specifically a round blue cup, that’s a weaker patent because you can only prevent others from making specifically a cup that is round and blue. A stronger patent is harder to get than a weaker patent. To get a patent for all cups you have to convince the patent office that you are the first to invent any cup. That may take a lot more convincing. However, to get a patent for specifically a round blue cup you just need to convince the Patent Office that you are the first to invent specifically a round blue cup, which is easier. Therefore, the strength of the patent you ask for and are ultimately willing to accept will greatly affect the chances of you getting a patent. How strong or weak of a patent you ask for is determined by how the patent application is written and should be conveyed to your patent attorney or agent.
Consider these above factors to determine how hard is it to get a patent. The uniqueness of your invention can be understood by having a patent search done before you apply for a patent. Whether you have the money to reasonably go through the patent back and forth process can be determined by understanding the fees to not only apply for a patent but also to have your patent firm go back and forth with the Patent Office. The strength of the patent you ask for and are willing to take depends on your own aversion to risk and your patent objectives. Are you trying to get a patent to prevent someone from making all cups, or are you okay with a patent to prevent someone from making specifically a round blue cup? You must decide this as the person trying to get a patent and discuss this with the patent attorney or agent drafting your patent application. A change to any of these factors above will change how hard it is for you to get a patent.