A patent is a legal designation given to a product or idea attributing it to a specific person. This protects the product or idea from being duplicated or imitated by other people or businesses without the original owner’s permission, otherwise known as “unauthorized use and distribution.” Federal patent law makes imitation, fraud, or knock-off items illegal. Patents are respected by other countries as well as the United States because the World Trade Organization (WTO) sets guidelines for international patent activity.

Which Ideas Can Be Patented?

There are different kinds of patents that can be obtained from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (US PTO). In all instances of a patent, the object or idea must be distinct, particular, and new to both the market and the patent catalogue.

New plants can be patented, as can designs. The most common kind of patent, however, is a utility patent, which is assigned to a process, a method, or an invention. The invention must be useful to receive a patent status.

What Is the Process for Obtaining a Patent?

You must submit an application to the US Patent and Trademark Office that includes the details of your plan along with visual aids such as maps or graphics. There is a filing fee to pay, as well. Specific instructions can be found on the patent application.

A patent is granted to the person who files for it, not necessarily the person who invented the idea. This means that if you have an idea for a patent, it is important to keep the idea and its details confidential and discreet until the US PTO grants a patent for your idea to you.

If you obtain a patent, it is your personal property. The law allows you to sell it just like you could sell any other kind of property. You can also license your patent to other people and companies, which is similar to renting out a piece of property.

Patent duration varies based on the kind of patent obtained. Patents filed before June 8, 1995 will be good for 20 years or 17 years after the patent is issued, whichever is longer. The duration for patents filed after June 8, 1995 is 20 years. Plant patents last for 17 years after the issue date, and design patents expire after 14 years.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

When applying for a patent, it is important to have sound legal advice from an intellectual property lawyer. The process for applying can be quite complicated, and the consequences for mistakes are high. You could lose exclusive access to your idea or invention if someone else is able to successfully patent it before you. A lawyer will help you make your best case for a valid patent and ensure that your application is filled out correctly.