What is a Patent?
A patent is a protection granted by law for inventions. This protection prevents others from making using, offering for sale, or selling the protected invention. Patents protect an invention for a limited time and the patent owner can license others to produce the invention. There are three types of patents:
- Utility patents are granted for a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter
- Design patents are granted for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture
- Plant patents are granted for distinct and new varieties of plants
Here are some frequently asked questions about patents:
Patents are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can apply for a patent if you are the inventor. If an inventor dies or is insane, his legal representations can apply for a patent. Joint inventors can apply together and one joint inventor can apply on another’s behalf if the other joint inventor is unavailable. Funding an invention does not qualify you as a joint inventor. Lying about being the inventor is a crime and will also invalidate the patent.
In order to qualify for a patent, an invention must be novel and non-obvious. It must also be useful. You will be denied a patent covering a law of nature, physical phenomena, or abstract idea. Only one invention can be claimed at a time. If you have more than one application in your invention the USPTO will make you separate them into separate applications.
Not every attorney can file a patent application, only those who have passed the Patent Registration Exam. Non-attorneys can also take the exam and those who sucessfully complete it are called patent agents. Patent Agents can file patent applications but cannot litigate the patent on your behalf if someone sues you or you sue someone else. Inventors could file an application themselves but unless you are very familiar with the USPTO’s procedures it is not a good idea. One mistake in following the guidelines or procedure could result in your patent application being denied.
Once an application is submitted to the USPTO an USPTO examiner will review the application to make sure it meets the requirements of novelty and non-obviousness and that it follows any requirements set by the USPTO or Congress. An examiner gives the filer an Office Action response approving the patent, giving an objection, or rejecting the patent. If the examiner feels the application claims more than one invention he will restrict the application to one invention. If the examiner feels the application is not novel or is obvious he will state his objection.
After the examiner creates this Office Action you or your attorney or representative can give a written response to every objection or rejection the examiner makes. You can also amend your application to comply with the examiner’s concerns. The examiner will receive your reply and issue a second Office Action. Usually the second action is the last. The last Office Action will approve or reject your patent. There is an appeals process for final rejections.
Owning a patent on your invention gives you certain rights. Only the owner of a patent can make the invention, use the invention, and sell or offer to sell the invention in the United States or its territories. Also only the patent owner can import the invention. However you can license these rights to someone else. If you think someone is infringing your patent rights, you will have to sue them in federal court; The USPTO does not enforce patent rights.
If you have an interest in getting or defending your patent you can contact a Stone Law Patent Attorney at 732-444-6303 or leave us a message on our website.