Patent

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WHAT IS A PATENT?

A United Stated patent is a grant of property rights by the U.S. Government to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention for the the term of the patent. Once the patent expires, the patented invention is granted to the public domain for general use.

TYPES OF PATENTS

U.S. patent law provides for the granting of three different types of patents:

1. UTILITY PATENTS are granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture of composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. "Process" includes industrial and manufacturing processes and methods. "manufacture" refers to articles which are made or manufactured. "Composition of matter" relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. Utility patents are the most common types of patents. A utility patent has a term from the date the patent issues to 20 years from the date of filing the patent application.

2. DESIGN PATENTS are granted to any person who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A design patent protects the ornamental design (i.e., appearance) of the article. A design patent has a term 14 years from the date the patent issues.

3. PLANT PATENTS are granted to any person who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces a new variety of plant. A plant patent has a term from the date the patent issues to 20 years from the date of filing the patent application.

STANDARD OF PATENTABILITY

In order for an invention to be patentable, it must be novel. In other words, it must be different from that which is already known.

In order to be patentable, the invention must also be non-obvious. In other words, it must not be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the field to which the invention relates at the time the invention was made.

WHO MAY OBTAIN A PATENT?

Patents are granted only to the true inventor or inventors. At the time of filing the patent application, each inventor must sign an oath and declaration that they are a true inventor. Contrary to some popular myths, a person cannot legally see a product in the marketplace and rush to get a patent for that product in their name. If a person lies on the oath and declaration by stating they invented an invention that they, in fact, did not invent, the resulting patent would be invalid.

PATENT PROTECTION IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES

The United States patent protects your invention only in this country. However, most foreign countries have a patent process that your invention may be eligible for if it meets the time limits referenced below.

TIME LIMITS FOR SEEKING PATENT PROTECTION

A patent may not be obtained if the invention was in public use, on sale, or offered for sale in the U.S. for more than one year prior to the filing of your patent application. In addition, foreign rights may be lost if the invention is publicly disclosed, advertised or sold before filing a U.S. patent application. If no such disclosure, advertisement or sale is made, you generally have one year from the date of filing a U.S. patent application to pursue foreign patent protection.

OWNERSHIP AND SALE OF PATENT RIGHTS

An inventor may sell all or part of his or her interest in a patent application or patent to anyone by signing an assignment. The assignment should be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to give public notice regarding ownership of the patent. Regardless of who owns the patent, the patent application must always be filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the name of the true inventor, and not as the invention of the person who has purchased the invention from the inventor.

PATENT PENDING

The terms "patent pending" and "patent applied for" may be used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that a patent application for the article has been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.