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US Patent:

Ideas, discoveries and inventions are the things that have seen our world evolve over the centuries, going from strength to strength in all areas such as technology and knowledge. However, at some point someone somewhere discovered something, invented something, created something, or wrote something that helped the world to evolve in this way. Protection exists to help these people to ensure that, although the whole world may benefit from what they discovered, wrote, invented or created, the rights remain theirs. Protection can come in the form of copyright, trademark and patent.

Many times a person thinks of inventing something to make people’s life easy or just to simply make money. But the thought of the time and effort required to actually make such an invention generally kills all ideas. But some enterprising people do think of new ideas and execute them as well. These inventors are protected by US patents.

A US patent for any invention or discovery of invention is a bestowing of propriety rights on to the inventor by the US Government through the US Patent and Trademark Office. This transfer of US patent rights disallows any person, other than the inventor, from making, using or selling the patented invention in the United States for a specified period of time.

A US patent can either be a ‘utility patent’ or a ‘design patent’. Below you can read a brief summary of what each of these is and see what the difference is between the two types.

  • Utility Patent: This type of US patent is granted to one who discovers a new process, machine, item of production, composition of matter or any new useful improvement thereof. A utility patent which was in effect on June 8, 1995 is valid for either a 17 year term from grant or a 20 year term from the earliest effective application date, whichever is longer. A utility patent applied for after this date is valid for 20 years from grant.
  • Design Patent: This type of US patent is given to someone who invents a new, useful, and original design for an item of production. A design patent is valid for 14 years from the date of grant of the patent.

US patents are granted and protected under the US Patent Laws. These laws were formed by the congress to protect the interests of inventors. The US Patent Laws are covered under Title 35 of the United States Code. The patent cooperation treaty was incorporated in 1975 since which time more than 3 million US patents have been granted.

A patent differs from a trademark and a copyright even though all three are types of individual property protection rights. A patent is given for an invention; a trademark refers to the right to a particular name or term; whereas copyright protects literary, artistic, and musical works.

Applying for a US patent

Once you have figured that your invention can be patented, you have to apply for a US patent. The first step is to see that your invention has not already been patented. For this you can conduct an online search of the US Patent and Trademark Office. If your invention is not already patented, then you can proceed with your patent application.

You can apply for either a provisional application, where the filing date is established but the examination process does not start; or a non-provisional application in which the examination process is begun and it may lead to a US patent. You can write to the US Patent and Trademark Office to send you more information and an application form for applying for a patent. A patent application is processed in about 2 years on an average. If filed on paper, then you will get your application number within eight weeks; and if filed electronically, then you get your number in a matter of minutes.

A US patent however cannot be granted to just a new idea or design if it has not been executed and has not resulted in an actual item of production. Patent applications are tested on technical and legal grounds. Declaring an item as patented, if it is not, is illegal and attracts a heavy penalty.

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