As an inventor, you want to protect your invention from unauthorized use and distribution. Under the federal patent law, a patent is given to an inventor in order to exclude others from "making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention" in the United States. Thus, a patent is given to an inventor to protect her invention.
Patents typically exist for twenty years and can be used for any invention in any field of technology. Patents are part of international agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), so member nations of the organization are expected to recognize and enforce legal patents.
Types of Inventions that Can Be Patented
Generally, to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the invention must be new, unique, and generally unobvious. There are different patents available depending on the item you wish to patent:
- Utility Patent - Generally, the invention must be a process or method with a concrete result, a machine, a chemical or biological composition of matter, or an invention improvement. To qualify for a utility patent, the invention must also be moderately useful.
- Design Patent - Generally, the design must be novel, non-obvious and nonfunctional.
- Plant Patent - Plants that you create can be patented. The plant must be novel and non-obvious. Naturally occurring substances, laws of nature, ideas, and calculation methods, among other things, cannot be patented.
How Can I Get a Patent for My Invention?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives applications for patents and makes patent determinations. An inventor must submit an application to the Patent and Trademark Office and attach specific drawings and a plan of the proposed invention. The inventor must also include a fee. The plan of the invention must follow a very rigid and specific form. After the application is reviewed, the Patent and Trademark Office will usually question the applicant as to any objections the office may have.
Please note that as of September 2011, the inventor who first filed the patent will receive the exclusive rights. Before September 2011, patent protection was granted to those who first invented the technology or product.
Can I Transfer My Patent To A Family Member or Business Partner?
Yes. Although the Federal Constitution gives Congress the power to grant exclusive rights to inventors only, the current federal code allows patents to be sold, licensed, mortgaged, transferred or abandoned like any other property.
When another party uses your invention, or an invention with similar elements to your invention, they may be liable for patent infringement. In order to demonstrate patent infringement, one must compare the patent's claims and elements with the elements of the device or invention that is suspect. If they match, there is an infringement. An inventor can enforce the patent in a federal court.
Should I Consult with a Patent Attorney for My Patent Issue?
Most people hire an experienced intellectual property attorney who knows what language to use for the patent application, and how to value the innovative facets of the invention. The deadlines and regulations for patents are also quite detailed and strict, and a patent lawyer will help you meet all the requirements and deadlines for a patent application.