A patent is an exclusive property right granted to an inventor by the government in exchange for publicly disclosing the invention.
Once an invention is patented, no one but the holder of the patent can make, use, sell or import that invention for a limited amount of time. Without a patent, anyone can make or sell another’s invention without permission or payment.
Patents are only granted to new, useful, and non-obvious inventions which generally take one of three forms:
- Utility Patent: A utility patent is granted to someone who invents or discovers a new process, machine, article of manufacture, or invents an improvement to a process, machine, etc. Utility patents last for 20 years.
- Design Patent: A design patent can be granted to someone who invents a new, original, or ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Design patents last for 14 years, and are usually not considered as desirable as utility patents.
- Plant Patent: A plant patent can be issued to anyone who invents or discovers and reproduces a new variety of plant.
To obtain a patent, an inventor should first search patent databases to determine if the invention has already been patented. If a patent has been issued, a new patent cannot be obtained. If the invention has not already been patented, an inventor must determine whether the patent should be filed internationally or only in the U.S. Then an inventor should decide what type of patent application to file – provisional or non-provisional. A provisional patent provides a lower-cost option for a first patent filing, and it allows an earlier effective filing date. It’s effective for one year, and then a regular patent application must be filed.
The patent can then be filed, preferably by a patent attorney who can help with the application and legal procedures. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will examine the application. The USPTO may reject some or all of the claims contained in the patent application, and it may be necessary to dispute the USPTO Examiner’s findings.
There are many benefits to a patent. Patents prevent others from using, making or selling your invention in the U.S. The patent can financially benefit the patent holder in several ways. A patent is considered a valuable business asset by potential investors or purchasers of a business. The patent can be sold directly to another person. The patent can be licensed to one or more parties.
If you believe you should seek a patent for an invention, contact our qualified patent attorneys. Obtaining a patent can be a complex process, and our experienced intellectual property law firm can help both with the legal aspects of the patent and with understanding the scientific issues involved. In addition, we can help protect the patent from infringement.