US Patent Information

Generally speaking, United States patent protection is the only vehicle by which one can exclude all others in the United States from making, using, selling or importing the subject matter which makes up the claimed invention. A patent application is a detailed written description of an invention’s structure and function, accompanied by mandatory patent-quality drawings. A patent application has often been described by the courts as the most difficult legal document to draft because it must be written pursuant to strict regulations so as to result in a patent that is valid and enforceable.

A valid patent cannot be granted for an invention that was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States. A valid patent application may only be filed in the name of the actual inventor or inventors of the invention over which patent protection is sought. In addition, patent protection is generally unavailable in countries other than the United States if the invention is publicly used or otherwise disclosed anywhere in the world before a patent application is filed.

To provide you with important US patent information, we have listed some of the most common US Patent questions and answers below.

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions.

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the Patent and Trademark Office. The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.
No. All patent applications are maintained in the strictest confidence until the patent is issued. After the patent is issued, however, the Office file containing the application and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available in the Files Information Unit for inspection by anyone and copies of these files may be purchased from the Office.
The Office will answer an applicant’s inquiries as to the status of the application, and inform you whether your application has been rejected, allowed, or is awaiting action. However, if you have a patent attorney or agent of record in the application file the Office will not correspond with both you and the attorney/agent concerning the merits of your application. All comments concerning your application should be forwarded through your attorney or agent.
No; most business with the Office is conducted by correspondence. Interviews regarding pending applications can be arranged with examiners if necessary, however, and are often helpful
If each had a share in the ideas forming the invention, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application. If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.
No. The application must be signed by the true inventor, and filed in the Patent and Trademark Office, in the inventors name. This is the person who furnishes the ideas, not the employer or the person who furnishes the money.
In the language of the patent statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term “machine” used in the statute needs no explanation. The term “manufacture” refers to articles which are made, and includes all manufactured articles. The term “composition of matter” relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything which is made by man and the processes for making the products.
According to the law, only the inventor may apply for a patent, with certain exceptions. If a person who is not the inventor should apply for a patent, the patent, if it were obtained, would be invalid. The person applying in such a case who falsely states that he/she is the inventor would also be subject to criminal penalties. If the inventor is dead, the application may be made by legal representatives, that is, the administrator or executor of the estate. If the inventor is insane, the application for patent may be made by a guardian. If an inventor refuses to apply for a patent or cannot be found, a joint inventor or a person having a proprietary interest in the invention may apply on behalf of the non-signing inventor.
In general terms, a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171). Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance. While utility and design patents afford legally separate protection, the utility and ornamentality of an article are not easily separable. Articles of manufacture may possess both functional and ornamental characteristics.
A provisional application for patent is a U. S. national application for patent filed in the USPTO under 35 U.S.C. §111(b). It allows filing without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure (prior art) statement. It provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a non-provisional patent application filed under 35 U.S.C. §111(a). It also allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied.

A provisional application for patent (provisional application) has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding non-provisional application for patent (non-provisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application.

A filing date will be accorded to a provisional application only when it contains: a written description of the invention, complying with all requirements of 35 U.S.C. §112 1; and any drawings necessary to understand the invention, complying with 35 U.S.C. §113.
If either of these items are missing or incomplete, no filing date will be accorded to the provisional application.
To be complete, a provisional application must also include the filing fee as set forth in 37 C. F. R. 1.16(k) and a cover sheet provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Patents protect inventions and improvements to existing inventions. Copyrights cover literary, artistic, and musical works. Trademarks are brand names and/or designs which are applied to products or used in connection with services.

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