Patent Help

When did the patent system come about?

The rights to patent protection are set forth by the United States Constitution in Article I, Section 8. The Patent Laws are elaborated in the United State Code, title 35. Major reforms to statutory law took place with the Patent Acts of 1870, 1952, and 1974. The first patent was issued in 1790, for a method of making potash. The patent examiners were: Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State), Edmund Jennings Randolph (Secretary of War), Henry Knox (Secretary of the Treasury).

What can be patented?

Hallmark qualities that an invention must have to be patentable: it must be new, it must be useful, and it must be nonobvious to someone skilled in the art. Things that can be patented include devices, processes, methods (even business methods), articles of manufacture, and products of processes. One court case described it as “anything under the sun made by man.” Many items that were once thought unpatentable (e.g., computer software, genes, and business methods), are now understood to be legitimate subject matter for patents. That means patents are issuing in non-traditional industries, like insurance and financial services, deepening there influence in all walks of commercial life.

What can’t be patented?

  • Abstract Ideas
  • Natural Phenomena
  • Laws of Nature.

What are the Types of patents:

  • Utility Patents (machines, man-made articles, processes, and composition of matter)
  • Plant Patents (asexually reproduced)
  • Design Patents (ornamental aspects of an invention; doesn’t include functionality)

What do the terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” mean?

A. They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.

If two or more persons work together to make an invention, to whom will the patent be granted?

A. If each had a share in the ideas forming the invention as defined in the claims – even if only as to one claim, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application. If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.

How long does a patent protect my rights?

Twenty (20) years from the date of filing a regular Utility Patent Application. At what point can I claim my invention is "Patent Pending"? From the day the regular Utility Patent Application or the Provisional Patent Application is filed.

What is a Provisional Patent Application?

An expanded version of a Disclosure Document but shorter than a regular Utility Patent Application. It does not require the claims or the formal drawings necessary in a regular Utility Patent Application, and costs about half as much. The Provisional Patent Application is kept on file for one year, is never examined and cannot become a patent until it is converted to a Utility Patent Application within one year of the filing date of the Provisional Patent Application.

How long does it take to obtain a patent?

Approximately twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months if no appeal is necessary. The exact time cannot be foreseen and depends upon the complexity of the invention and the workload of the examiner assigned to a patent application.