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Intellectual Property Basics

What is a Patent

A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “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 limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal Agency charged with granting U.S. Patents and registering Federal Trademarks.

To be eligible for a patent, an invention must be:

NOVEL - not known or used by others in this country or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country

USEFUL - must have a purpose, and it must operate to perform the intended purpose

NON-OBVIOUS - must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before and not obvious to someone skilled in the art of the technology related to the invention

Types of Patents

Utility patents (non-Provisional) may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. In general, the term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.

Design patents  may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.  U.S. design patents resulting from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 have a 15 year term from the date of grant (applications filed earlier had a 14 year term).

Plant patents may be granted to anyone who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. Term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.

Provisional Application for Patent

A provisional patent application allows you to file without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure (prior art) statement. A provisional application for patent was designed to provide a lower-cost first patent filing in the United States.  A provisional application for patent 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 nonprovisional application for patent (nonprovisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application.

Helpful USPTO Links and Publications