This protection applies only to inventions and designs that are original and would not have been apparent to a person skilled in that design field. U.S. patents give their owners the right to exclude anyone else from producing, using, selling and importing the invention protected by the patent into this country. Patents are granted only to inventors who came up with the idea and not to business entities.
In exchange for these exclusive protections, the individual holding the patent must disclose detailed information about the patent in their application so that a person reasonable skill may understand the making and use of the invention without unnecessary experimentation.
There are three types of patents. A utility patent is granted to a person who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, product of manufacture or composition matter or any new and useful improvement to these items.
A design patent is granted for inventors of a new, original and ornamental design for manufactured articles. A plant patent applies to inventors or discoverer and asexually reproduced new types of plants.
The patent and trademark office grants patents. Federal law only grants one year to the inventor to file a patent application after an invention is offered for sale or disclosed to the public.
The PTO will examine whether the invention or design is eligible for protection and may require modifications to the application. A patent search will help assure that the invention is new.
A utility patent generally expires 20 after the application date for applications filed after June 7, 1995. Design patents remain in effect 15 years from the date the patent was issued. Maintenance fess must be paid at specified times or the patent will expire.
Federal courts rule on patent infringement suits. Court may issue injunctions extending the patent’s duration, monetary damages, enhanced damages and attorney’s fees.
Applying for and enforcing a patent may be complicated. An attorney can help inventors protect their creativity.