Patents provide protection which really are “offensive rights” to prosecute any individual who infringes on the monopoly of your creation.
What is a patent? - A patent is a right granted to an inventor by the government “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States,” for a set and limited amount of time.
Who can apply for a patent? – Anyone can apply for a patent as long as they are truly the inventor(s).
How do you know if your invention is patentable? – One should perform multiple patent searches to ensure that another individual does not already own a patent. Even if you are awarded a patent, anything that was missed by the examiner overturns your invention.
What can be patented? – utility patents are provided for a new, nonobvious and useful:
• Article of manufacture
• Composition of matter
• Improvement of any of the above
Note: In addition to utility patents, encompassing one of the categories above, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.
What cannot be patented?
• Laws of nature
• Physical phenomena
• Abstract ideas
• Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected). Go to the Copyright Office.
Inventions which are:
• Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
• Offensive to public morality
Invention must also be:
• Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention)
• Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms
Credit for "what can and cannot be patented?" is given to: http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/patents.jsp
How long does patent protection last?
Patent applications filed on or after June 8, 1995 are granted for a term which begins with the date of the grant and usually ends 20 years from the date you first applied for utility and plant patents provided appropriate maintenance fees are paid. Although design patents last 14 years from the date the patent is granted and no maintenance fees are necessary for design patents.
Note: “Patents in force on June 8, 1995 and patents issued thereafter on applications filed prior to June 8, 1995 automatically have a term that is the greater of the twenty year term discussed above or seventeen years from the patent grant.”
What does a patent protect?
A patent can protect:
- the design (Design Patents): unique feature(s) such as the handle of a knife, because the blade already exists in one form or another.
- the function (Utility Patents): unique use, such as a safety pin.
-of an invention.
A patent can also protect:
- A plant patent: An example of which is a hybrid from parent plants that is produced asexually. This protects the look and color of plants such as flowers.
How much does it cost to get a patent?
• There is a filing fee, which is non-refundable whether or not a patent is granted. (This is the cost to have your invention "examined" by the US Patent and Trademark Office - remember, you may or may not get a patent!)
• The issue fee (you pay this only if your application is allowed)
• Maintenance fees ( these are paid at 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after your patent is granted - these fees "maintain" your legal protection).
• Additional fees may be required.
USPTO - United States Patent and Trademark Office