Modern Patent Law
American Patent Law is a system for protecting the rights of inventors in their new inventions and discoveries. When inventors discover a new process‚ formula‚ method‚ or composition‚ they can use the protection afforded to them by patent law to make a commercial profit from their invention. Patent Law allows the inventor to exclude others from making the invention‚ using the invention‚ or marketing the invention to others. In other words‚ Patent Law grants exclusive rights in the invention to the inventor‚ allowing the inventor to monopolize the invention and realize the reward for their discovery.
In order to obtain protection under patent law‚ an inventor must have reduced his or her invention to practice. Reduction to practice occurs when the inventor discovers the best mode or process for actually implementing the invention and is able to describe that process to others similarly skilled in the industry so that they may duplicate or recreate the invention. In other words‚ the invention or discovery must be more than an idea‚ it must be capable of being described and replicated. Pure ideas are not patentable.
When an inventor reduces an invention to practice‚ he or she can file a patent application. The patent application is reviewed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If the application meets the requirements for patentability and a Patent is issued‚ it lasts for a period of 20 years. During that 20 years‚ if an individual or business wants to use‚ make‚ or sell the patented material‚ they must obtain a license from the inventor. By licensing or selling the rights to an invention‚ or by using that invention to make a product or improve a process‚ the inventor is able to benefit commercially from their discovery.
Origins of Patent Law
The concept of ownership of an invention is ancient. The Ancient Greeks as well as the Medieval Venetians and English all shared the concept that one who invents or discovers something should be rewarded with the fruits of his or her invention. More modernly‚ English philosopher John Locke contended in his Theory of Value and Property‚ also known as “Labor Theory‚” that ownership over something stems from the labor exerted to achieve it. Ownership of property and the value of the property itself is achieved through taking something out of the state of nature and giving it usefulness. By creating a method‚ process‚ formula‚ or machine‚ the inventor was rewarded by holding the exclusive right to that invention. This exclusivity not only rewarded the inventor‚ but was also meant to act as an incentive for others to invent and discover.
American Patent Law originated with the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution and was later comprehensively codified in Title 35 of the United States Code. The Copyright Clause empowered Congress to act in order to “Promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries.” Title 35 established the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to review and issue patents‚ set forth the requirements for patentability‚ and established a federal cause of action for patent infringement.
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