Patent Law



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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.

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Articles About Patent Law

  • Harvard Professor Fires Back Against Copyright Infringement Claims
    Harvard University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is fighting back against allegations that his online lecture posted on YouTube violates the copyright to a French pop song. Fittingly, Lessig is a respected expert on law and technology as well as an advocate for less restrictive copyright laws.
  • Copyright FAQ: What is Considered Fair Use?
    When deciding whether you can use someone else’s work without permission, there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration. One of the most important limitations to copyright protection is the doctrine of fair use.
  • Are You Getting Shortchanged on Patent Royalties?
    Licensing intellectual property can be a lucrative stream of revenue. However, businesses need to have procedures in place to ensure accurate reporting and royalty payments.
  • GAO Reports Sheds Light on Impact of NPEs
    The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report on the impact of non-practicing entities (NPEs). The findings debunk many of the criticisms waged against so-called “patent trolls.”
  • Presidential Hopefuls Taking Heat for Possible Copyright Infringement
    Every election season, at least one of the candidates seems to end up in legal hot water over music used by the campaign. in 2012, it was Newt Gingrich. He is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for his use of the Rocky III theme song, "Eye of the Tiger."
  • Green Technology Pilot Program Marks 500th Patent
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that it has issued the 500th patent through its Green Technology Pilot Program. Under the patent program, applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation, and environmental quality are eligible for accelerated review at no cost to the inventor.
  • A Call for Big Patent Changes
    Federal Judge Richard Posner recently dismissed the high-profile intellectual property litigation between Apple and Motorola, after determining that neither side could prove damages.
  • Are Neutral Experts the Key to Complicated IP Litigation?
    Judge Richard Posner is taking a novel approach to the upcoming patent litigation between Apple and Motorola. He is using court-appointed witnesses to explain complicated subject matter.
  • What Does Neil Young Have Against MP3s? Rock Legend Seeks Trademark for New Audio Format
    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.
  • USPTO Issues Guidance to Patent Examiner in Wake of Prometheus Decision
    The 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.
  • 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.

Patent Law - International

Organizations For Patent Laws

Publications For Patent Laws