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 What Is a Patent?

An invention’s patent confers ownership rights to the inventor. The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants patents. Typically, a patent’s term begins 20 years after the application is submitted. The United States is the only country where a patent is valid.

The process of obtaining a patent might take up to five years to complete. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office must receive an application, fees must be paid, and responses must be made to office activities before a patent can be granted.

Where Can I Find a Patent?

Before submitting a patent application to the USPTO, there are a few fundamental steps to take. To find out if your invention is comparable to others, it is advised to run a patent search.

Additionally, a patent search enables you to confirm whether your idea is eligible for patent protection. To file a patent, one must adhere to certain guidelines set forth by the USPTO.

1. Submission

Assuming this is your first application, you must first submit an “original application” packet that contains the claims for your invention. Any relevant drawings to the invention, a claim of inventorship, and a power of attorney must be submitted with this application (when you have an attorney representing your interests). An application fee is also required.

2. Office Action

Once your application has been submitted to the PTO, a patent examiner who has received training in the area in which your invention is applicable will examine it. The examiner will often send you a letter with queries regarding your application or instructions on how to make improvements. Office Actions are the requests in question.

You have two options when responding to office actions: either you alter your application as required, or you argue with the examiner about the issues raised in the office action. Normally, this process takes six to eight months.

The examiner can either grant the patent or give you a second office action after examining your response to the first office action. A second office action typically deals with fresh issues brought up by your answer to the first office action. The duration of the second office action procedure is up to a year. The examiner must either grant a patent or reject your application once you have responded to the second office action. You can challenge the PTO’s denial if your patent application is denied. Up to two additional years may pass before an appeal is resolved.

3. Release

An allowance will be made once an examiner is pleased with your application, and the applicant will then be required to pay an issuance fee. After paying this amount, the applicant acquires exclusive ownership of the innovation for a period of 20 years from the filing date of the initial application. A year may pass from the time of allowance until issuance.

How Much Will It Cost to Get a Patent?

For a simple mechanical or electrical invention, the full patent process, including attorney fees, can cost at least $1000-$4000, or between $10,000 and $20,000 for a complicated computer or high-tech device. These figures do not account for the extra expenses incurred throughout the appeals process.

How Much Time Does a Patent Have?

Any patent filed on or after June 8, 1995, has a term that starts when it is issued and expires when it has been 20 years since the patent application was submitted in the U.S. The standard is a twenty-year term. The patent must be maintained throughout its lifespan by filing maintenance fee payments. A design patent is valid for 14 years from the date of filing.

Does a Patent Ever Expire Too Soon?

A patent may prematurely expire on occasion. This could happen if the inventor doesn’t pay the required maintenance fees or if the patent is found to be invalid.

It will enter the public domain after the patent expires. Any person may thereafter make use of the patent, sell it, or import it.

The holder of a patent loses all rights to it after it expires. However, if their patent was violated while it was still in force, the owner may file a lawsuit for infringement or file for enforcement.

What Can Invalidate My Patent?

There are numerous grounds for invalidating a patent. When the alleged infringer asserts the patent is invalid in an infringement lawsuit, patents are typically found to be invalid.

Other grounds for invalidating patents include:

  • It wasn’t truly possible to patent the invention: The USPTO can declare a patent invalid if evidence is shown that demonstrates the invention lacked the necessary utility, novelty, or non-obviousness that was required for the patent;
  • The patent was obtained fraudulently by someone: The patent may be deemed invalid even if the innovation was patentable if someone can demonstrate that it was obtained by tricking the USPTO;
  • The patent was employed to carry out unlawful activity: The USPTO has the authority to invalidate a patent if someone uses it to commit a crime.

When Must I Pay Maintenance Fees? What Are Maintenance Fees?

To keep their patents active, inventors must pay maintenance fees to the USPTO. Following the issuance of a patent, these maintenance payments are required at predetermined periods, including 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years.

An inventor has six months to pay the maintenance costs if they miss one of these dates. They will also need to pay a penalty levy to maintain the patent in effect.

The patent will expire if the creator doesn’t pay these upkeep costs.

Can I Extend My Patent’s Lifetime?

A person’s patent may be extended under specific circumstances. In general, a person may be granted an extension if the USPTO or another government agency has prevented them from using the rights conferred by the patent.

No extension will last longer than five years. The following scenarios frequently lead to the extension of a patent:

  • The USPTO takes a long time to examine whether an innovation infringes on another patent before deciding it does not infringe; The application is originally denied, and the person succeeds on appeal;
  • The person developed a product that needs FDA approval before it can be used commercially, such as a medication, medical device, food ingredient, or color additive;

To address these problems, the USPTO established the Patent Term Restoration Program. Up to 5 years of lost time while awaiting FDA approval will be made up by the PTR Program.

What is Infringement of a Patent?

It is considered patent infringement when someone exploits another person’s innovation or an invention with similar components. A person must contrast the parts and claims of the original patent with the components of the suspect device or invention in order to prove patent infringement has taken place.

There has been an infringement if these correspond. Inventors may enforce patents in federal court.

Should I Get Legal Advice on My Patent Issues?

A patent application is a very intricate and involved process. Despite the fact that the majority of inventors are technically proficient, most are unfamiliar with the format required for patent claims.

A patent lawyer is acquainted with the requirements of the PTO and can assist you in obtaining a valid patent for your successful invention.

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