Our law firm assists with patent registration. If you have an infringement or litigation issue‚ or need local counsel or pro hac vice assistance‚ please see our patent infringement or patent litigation pages. For a consultation with a patent attorney, please feel free to contact us.
The creators of trademarks and copyrights enjoy certain protections even if they don’t register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This isn’t the case for inventors. If you fail to properly register your invention with the patent office, anyone else can come forward with a similar invention and receive a patent instead of you.
The United States patent laws are codified in Title 35 of the U.S. Code, which covers patentability, the rights of patent holders, and more. Patent laws in the United States are meant to promote innovation. Patent law is so important, in fact, that patent protections are codified in the U.S. Constitution.
In order for an invention to be patentable‚ it must be new as defined in patent law. It must also be useful‚ novel‚ and non-obvious. Thomas Edison’s light bulb is one of the best known patents‚ but lesser known patented inventions are all around us.
Types of Patents
The three primary types of patents are:
- Utility patents: Applies to inventions or discoveries of new and useful machines, formulas, manufacturing processes, chemical compositions or improvements to any of these.
- Design patents: Applies to new and original ornamental designs. While utility patents focus on functionality, design patents focus on appearance.
- Plant patents: Inventors who discover, asexually reproduce, or invent a new and distinct variety of plant can apply for these patents.
Patent Registration Lawyers
Patent registration in the U.S. follows a “first to file rule.” Until recently, U.S. law dictated that whoever first invented a patentable concept had rights over it. This changed with the America Invents Act. If you and a competitor are working on a similar problem and find matching answers independently, only the first person to file for a patent will gain rights. This is why it’s so essential to immediately file for patent protection through the USPTO.
The following are recent statistics regarding patent applications submitted in the U.S.:
- 589,410 total utility patent applications
- 39,097 design patent applications
- 1,140 plant patent applications
Now, compare the above to the statistics regarding granted patents for the same year:
- 298,407 utility patent grants
- 25,986 design patent grants
- 1,074 plant patent grants
The number of grants comprised just over half of the number of applications received, and utility patents were by far the most difficult to obtain.
Patent laws set out strict eligibility requirements followed by the USPTO, and the following is a brief overview of the five primary criteria for obtaining a patent.
- Patentable Subject Matter
The subject matter of your invention must be patentable, meaning it must have a concrete result and not merely be abstract. Patentable subject matter includes new and useful physical compositions, processes, and more. These can include:
- Operational processes
- Business methods with tangible results
- Computer hardware
- Computer software with a tangible result
- Medical equipment
- Fabric designs and blends
- Recreational and sporting equipment
- Toys and games
- Isolated human genes (since isolation requires human intervention)
- Synthetic bacteria
For a patent, the invention must be for something that is useful and that has utility. The usefulness and utility must be immediately foreseeable instead of possibly useful sometime down the line. For instance, you will likely not qualify for an invention for medication when its potential effectiveness has no scientific support.
To be patentable, an invention must be novel. You must make sure there is no published description or existing patent for something that has all of the major elements of your invention. This means you should not disclose your invention at all prior to having a patent attorney file the application because your own disclosures can prevent you for receiving patent protection. This is referred to as the absolute novelty requirement. Though grace periods exist in certain countries‚ we recommend filing a patent application prior to any disclosure. While it is possible to patent an improvement on an existing invention, you cannot obtain a new patent for something that has been available to the public. It’s important never to delay speaking with a patent attorney so you do not miss your window of opportunity for registering your own patent.
Next, a patentable invention must be non-obvious. Often, failing to meet this criterion is the reason patent applications are denied, as it is not simple to prove you satisfy this requirement. One question many people should ask is whether your invention would be an obvious next step based on existing and accessible information. If you are simply trying to combine two or more existing patents to create one invention, the USPTO may claim the combination is too obvious. There must be an inventive leap between your idea and the existing technology, processes, or products.
If your invention meets all the aforementioned requirements, it may be time to file for a patent. Keep in mind, however, that filing a patent application is only the first step. After filing, you should expect to receive one or more office actions and the process can take up to 33 months to achieve a registration.
The Patent Process
You should begin the patent registration process with a patent search. This will ensure that your invention isn’t already in the public domain. Searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and reviewing your industry’s literature is vital.
The patent application itself is extensive and highly specific, and many people get denied because of incomplete applications or because they did not understand the standards of the applications process.
Your patent application should be broad enough that it fully encompasses your invention but not so broad that it overlaps prior art which will cause your application to be refused. At the same time, your patent application should very narrowly describe your invention, but it should not be so narrow that it misses opportunities for claims that it should include.
The primary elements of a patent application are:
- The Abstract
- The Specification
- The Claims
- The Drawings (if appropriate)
- The Declaration; and
- The filing fee
How Long Does my Patent Last?
Once a utility patent application is approved, it is valid for 20 years from the date on which the application was filed with the United States. Recently filed Design patents last 15 years.
Utility patent holders must pay maintenance fees throughout the duration of the effective patent period in order to maintain the validity of the patent. Failure to pay the maintenance fee on time will result in the patent expiring.
Mandour & Associates – Patent Registration Attorneys
If you have questions regarding the potential misuse of a patent, please review our patent infringement and patent litigation pages. If you are interested in patent registration, we look forward to hearing from you. Our offices are located throughout southern California in Orange County, Los Angeles‚ and San Diego.
We have offices throughout southern California. If you are interested in filing a patent application, please contact us.