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 your invention without permission or payment.
A patent provides many benefits to the inventor:
- Patents prevent others from using, making, or selling your invention in the U.S.
- 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.
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, an article of manufacture, or invents an improvement to a process, machine, etc. Utility patents last for 20 years from the earliest filing date, or 17 years from the date of patent award (whichever is greater).
- 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 15 years, and are generally not considered as valuable as utility patents.
- Plant Patent: A plant patent can be issued to anyone who invents, discovers, or reproduces a new variety of plant.
The America Invents Act that went into effect in 2013 modified the US patent rules to be in line with other international patent regimes by making the first inventor to file for the patent eligible for the patent as compared to the previous rule where the first to invent was the only inventor eligible to get the patent. This poses a different set of challenges and questions for businesses and inventors in regard to their decision to keep their inventions secret (competitive advantage of the trade secret but risk missing out on patent protection) or filing for a patent, the publication of which may allow competition to come up with competitive products that provide the same utility without infringing their patent. Our firm can help you evaluate and create the optimal claims for the patent that strike the best balance by having coverage broad enough so that it is hard to sidestep but not too broad so as to be easily invalidated by a challenge from a competitor.
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 lawyer 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.
Attorney Kumar has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He has filed multiple patents in his own name and has been granted a patent by the USPTO. Obtaining a patent can be a complex process. If you believe you should seek a patent for an invention, contact our firm. Our firm can help both with the legal aspects of the patent and with understanding the scientific issues involved.