What is the benefit of patent protection?
An issued patent allows you to stop (i.e., exclude) others from making, using, selling, offering for sale and importing your invention. With less competition, the patented product presumably can be sold at a higher price provided that there is market demand for your patented widget.
The invention can be licensed to a manufacturer or a third party for royalty payments.
Patents act as a barrier to entry into the business segment covered by the patent. Competitors may have to design around the patent. In doing so, the changes made to the competitor’s product may significantly reduce desirability of the competitor’s product if the design-around impairs the product’s ease of use or functionality.
What can be patented?
Three types of inventions can be patented, specifically utility inventions to protect functional features, design inventions to protect ornamental features and plant patents. This blog does not cover plant patents.
Recently, the courts have considered the types of utility inventions that can be patented. Generally, any type of new and useful process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter and improvements can be patented. However, perpetual motion machines, algorithms, discoveries of nature, and other similar discoveries cannot be patented.
How long is a patent enforceable?
The term of a utility patent is twenty (20) years upon filing or seventeen (17) years from the date of grant depending on the filing date of the patent application. For design patents, the term of patent protection is fourteen (14) years from the date of grant. The patent term may be extended or reduced due to delays by the Patent Office and/or the applicant.
For utility patents, maintenance fees must be paid at regular intervals during the life of the patent. Otherwise, the patent will expire prior to the full term of the patent.
How long does it take to obtain a patent after filing a patent application?
The approximate length of time for the Patent Office to examine the patent application and determine whether your invention should be granted a patent or rejected is approximately three years.
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