What is Patent Law? It encompasses the branch of law that governs patents. U.S. patent laws were enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect the discoveries of inventors. A patent is the grant of an exclusive property right to the inventor for the benefits of an invention or improvement, granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), for a specific period of time. The invention or idea, by its nature, must be patentable; one skilled in the applicable field must be able to make and use the claimed invention; it must be new (novel) and has not been iterated; its originality must be obvious, meaning the idea cannot be something that anyone in the applicable field of expertise could have easily identified; and it must be useful. Patent law specialists can make a search of patents to determine if the proposed invention is truly unique, and if it appears to be, can file an application, including detailed drawings and specifications.
Only the inventor, or an attorney registered to practice before the USPTO, can prepare and submit a patent application. A legal document, which contains a detailed description of what the invention is and how to make or use it, is issued to the inventor (patentee), which gives the owner of the patent the right to exclude any other person from making, using, or selling the invention covered by the patent.
The USPTO offers the following types of patent applications: 1) utility, which includes a process, a machine, manufactured products, and compounds or mixtures (such as chemical formulas); 2) design, which is a new, original and ornamental design for a manufactured article; and 3) plant inventions, which are any distinct and new variety of cultivated asexually reproduced plants. The USPTO classifies applications for utility and plant inventions into provisional and non-provisional applications. Provisional patent applications may be filed for any invention that has not been publicly disclosed for more than one year from the date of filing. Provisional patent applications do not get examined by the USPTO, but are used as a vehicle to obtain a priority date and may be useful in obtaining “patent pending” status on ideas during final stages of development, or while raising capital or test marketing. The USPTO does not use provisional and non-provisional applications for design inventions. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international agreement for filing patent applications. Although an inventor cannot obtain an international patent through the PCT, it does allow the inventor to file a single international patent application in order to simultaneously seek protection for an invention in over 125 countries worldwide.
The term of a new patent has changed over time and is currently 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date, but all three types of patents require payment of maintenance fees to keep them effective. Once the term has ended, if no extension has been filed and approved, the patented invention enters the public domain. Manufacture of a product upon which there is an existing patent is "patent infringement" which can result in a lawsuit against the infringer with substantial damages granted.
Know your Rights!
Articles About Patent Law
- USPTO Issues Guidance to Patent Examiner in Wake of Prometheus DecisionThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a memorandum to its patent examiners regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. The memorandum provides preliminary guidance to the Patent Examining Corps. in light of the Court’s decision, and also indicates that further guidance will be forthcoming.
- Has Louis Vuitton Gone Too Far to Protect Its Trademark?The intellectual property world is buzzing about the trademark dispute brewing between luxury brand Louis Vuitton and University of Pennsylvania Law School. Louis Vuitton recently sent a strongly worded cease and desist letter demanding that the school remove posters advertising the Pennsylvania Intellectual Property Group’s (PIRG) annual symposium on fashion law because the posters "misappropriated and modified" Vuitton's trademarked monogram design.
- U.S. Gymnasts Are Not the First “Fab Five”If the U.S. women’s Olympic team wants to capitalize on their gold medal win, they may need to hire an experienced trademark attorney. The group’s famous nickname—the Fab Five—is already trademarked by NBA player Jalen Rose.
- China Leads the World in Patent FilingChina was the world’s top patent filer for 2011, according to a new Thompson Reuters report. The significant uptick is attributed to the country’s desire to transform from a "made in China" to a "designed in China" market.
- Copyright FAQ: What Is a “Useful Article?”In a recent copyright infringement case involving Batman’s famous ride, the Batmobile, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the famous car was protected under the Copyright Act because it possessed non-functional artistic elements that could be separated from the utilitarian aspect of the automobile.
- Patent FAQ: Is My Invention Patentable?A patent is a valuable property right because it excludes others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling your invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a certain period of time. However, before embarking on the patent process, the first step is determine if your invention can indeed be patented.
- Rock Legend Seeks Trademark for New Audio FormatWhat Does Neil Young Have Against MP3s? Legendary rocker Neil Young reportedly does not like how his songs currently sound on his iPod. To remedy the problem, he is working on a new, high-resolution audio format to replace MP3s, as evidenced by several trademarks applications recently filed on his behalf.
- Can You Patent a Tattoo? Nokia Says YesPatents and patent applications are often the first indicators that a new technology or product is on the horizon. This may be the case with Nokia’s recent patent application for a vibrating tattoo.
- Will EU Ruling on Copyright Protection for Software Impact U.S. Litigation?The Court of Justice of the European Union recently confirmed that computer functions are not eligible for copyright protection. While the decision is clearly a win for the software industry and its reliance on reverse engineering, its impact on U.S. copyright litigation remains to be seen.
- Trademark FAQ: What Is Dilution?As we mentioned last week, trademark owners can protect their intellectual property by bringing a trademark infringement action. This post highlights another valuable legal tool—an action for trademark dilution.
- All Intellectual Property Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Intellectual Property including: copyright, domain names, licensing law, patents, trade secrets and trademark.
Patent Law - United States
- Patent and Trademark Law Center
American Patent and Trademark Law Center is a professional association of independent registered patent attorneys and specializes in patent, trademark, copyright and related business and government contract matters, such as licenses.
- Patent Cooperation Treaty
The States party to this Treaty (hereinafter called "the Contracting States") constitute a Union for cooperation in the filing, searching, and examination, of applications for the protection of inventions, and for rendering special technical services.
- Patent Law - Definition
United States patent law was established "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" as provided in the United States Constitution.
- Patent Law - Overview
Patents grant an inventor the right to exclude others from producing or using the inventor's discovery or invention for a limited period of time. U.S. patent laws were enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to protect thediscoveries of inventors.
- Patent Law Portal
Our goal is to provide you with the most diverse and current resource center for the professional patent law community and inventors. The Patent Law Portal is the definitive guide for patent information required by inventors and patent professionals alike.
- Trilateral Co-operation
The Trilateral Co-operation was set up in 1983 between * the European Patent Office (EPO), * the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and * the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- United States Patent Act
The U.S. Patent Act is found in Title 35 of the U.S. Code and contains the federal statutes governing patent law in the United States.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks.