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What a Patent Is and What It Does for You
A US Patent allows you to license your invention idea, it is like the deed to the ranch in a sense. Without it you have nothing to offer a company unless your technology can be kept secret and provide protection as a trade secret.
The patent gives the inventor, or a company licensing or buying the patent rights from the inventor, the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention for a period of twenty years from the filing date of the utility patent application.
What May Be Patented
Patents may be obtained on new and useful inventions which are not obvious in view of previous patents or public technology. Patents are of three different types based on the nature of the invention and type of protection desired:
Important Time Factors Related to Patents
If you think you may be interested in getting foreign patents, it is very important that you apply for a patent before making your invention public. Making an invention public can be offering the invention for sale or selling the invention, having it described in a publication, or revealing it to anyone without a confidential disclosure agreement where they agree to keep your invention secret.
File a Patent Application in the US, Then File for International Patents
Because of international agreements with most countries, you can file a US patent application and then file for international patent applications within one year of the US filing date and have the advantage of the original US filing date in the foreign countries. After one year from the US filing date you no longer have the advantage of the US filing date and, if the invention has been made public, you will not be able to file in most of the foreign countries. Canada is an exception, They allow filing a patent within two years of making the invention public.
You Lose Your Right to File for a Patent If You Don't File in the US Within One Year of Making the Invention Public
In the US you can actually apply for a patent application within one year of making the invention public. If you wait more than a year after making the invention public, the invention becomes public property and you are no longer able to obtain a valid patent in the US. Exceptions are make for testing of the invention.
You Should Apply for a Patent Before Making the Invention Public
It is always best to apply for a patent before making the invention public. If you rely on confidential disclosures to reveal the invention to others and they make the invention public, even though you may be able to sue them for breach of contract, you may still lose your patent rights because of the public disclosure.
How To Obtain a Patent
A patent is a complex document explaining how to make and how to use an invention including detailed drawings, so that someone skilled in the technology would actually be able to make and use the invention. It includes the technical field of the invention, the unique features and advantages, and a summary abstract. Most importantly, the patent document contains legally binding claims which determine the extent of the rights of the patent holder.
The patent application, which is made to the US Patent and Trademark Office and to the patent offices of other countries if desired, must include the patent document as described in the previous paragraph, a declaration that you believe yourself to be the true inventor, information about the inventor, a transmittal letter, and the filing fees.
While it is possible for an inventor to write and file a patent application, it is highly recommended to have the application written (especially the legally binding claims), filed and prosecuted before the US Patent and Trademark Office by a registered patent attorney or agent with years of experience. This may be the single most important component of your success or failure with your invention to enable you to license the invention and prevent others from infringing on your idea. Your investment in your patent protection (far less than the cost of putting a single advertisement in a national magazine) will pay for itself a thousand times over during the twenty year term of the patent. Without a well written patent you may lose everything.
A design patent protects only the shape of a useful item. This is generally only important if you are a designer and are really selling the product base on its shape. Someone merely has to change the shape of the item to get around the patent. But with a utility patent, as described on the rest of this web page, the basic way that the product works is protected. Just changing the shape will not enable someone to get around the patent.
A copyright protects creative expression, such as the actual words of a book or song, the actual visual appearance of objects that have no other function than the artistic, such as paintings and sculpture, or visual images which may be applied in a variety of ways, such as cartoon characters. Copyrights are obtainable through the Library of Congress. There is a "copyright information" link below to the Library of Congress.
A trademark or servicemark covers only the name of a product or service. It actually protects the consumer, since the owner of a trademark must maintain the quality of the product or service so that consumers are assured of the same quality whenever they purchase a product or service bearing the trademarked name. More information about trademarks may be found at the Patent and Trademark Office by clicking the "patent and trademark information" link below.
A trade secret is knowledge about how to make a product, such as the formula for Coke(TM). It can only work if the trade secret may not be discovered by someone analyzing the product. It is only effective as long as everyone who knows the trade secret keeps it a secret.
Patent Search by Registered Professional
A US patent search is the usual first step to determine patentability. Your patent search will be performed and evaluated by a registered professional with the knowledge of where to look and what to look for. It is a complete patent search of all the related classes and subclasses from the beginning of the patent system to the present. NOTE: other search services performing only a word search, including a concept word search, only go back to 1975. They are not complete patent searches.
For a US patent search, send your name, address, phone and email, if appropriate, and a confidential description of your invention including how to make and use the invention, the function, and how it is an improvement over any past ways of doing a similar thing. If the invention can be explained verbally on the phone, a written description is not necessary. All in formation is strictly confidential.
A Patent Search Report and copies of related patents will be reported to you normally within one week. You will be getting the best complete and thorough patent search possible.
If your invention is patentable based on the patent search, a US utility patent application or design patent application can be written and filed, including patent drawings, normally within four weeks upon your approval. Send your request for a US patent application along with the inventor's full name, address, phone, FAX and email, if appropriate, and a confidential description of your invention including how to make and use the invention, the function, and how it is an improvement over any past ways of doing a similar thing. If the invention can be explained verbally on the phone, a written description is not necessary. All information is strictly confidential.
International patents filed within one year have the US filing date as a priority date. If you choose to file for foreign patents based on a US application, you can file through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) initial filing process.
The PCT filing process is recommended if you are uncertain of which countries you will eventually select for patent filing or if you wish to delay the filing in individual countries, which often requires substantial fees for translations.
A European Patent filing process delays individual country filing in a similar fashion to the PCT. The process allows designating desired European Union countries and many former Soviet Union countries by extension.
by Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
by mail to
Phone: 800-434-6297 or 949-887-0526 (best time to call is from 1-6 PM East Coast Time)
The 1st Patents team is happy to answer any questions and be of service to you in protecting your ideas. Thank you.
Thank you for your interest in 1st Patents,
© 2014 Don Meeker
patent and trademark information