Patent Law

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.


Articles About Patent Law

  • Is My Idea Protectable? Well, It Depends . . .
    A Non-Disclosure Agreement is crucial when it comes to protecting your idea. Our latest blog post by our Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams emphasizes the power of NDA and the wide array of ideas that can be safeguarded. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • Copyright Ownership in the Age of Generative AI
    Copyright ownership is a complex issue, particularly in the age of generative AI. Our latest blog post by Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams explores this topic in-depth and offers insights into how businesses and creators can navigate the challenges of copyright ownership in the digital age. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • A Proposal to Address The U.S. Patent “Thicket” Problem During Examination
    A so-called patent “thicket” is a collection of many patents with overlapping claims, usually from the same patent application family, covering a single product (and its variations). The use of patent “thickets” to protect drugs and biological products has been the subject of Congressional oversight into rising drug prices. As explained below, a smart patent attorney can create a patent “thicket” by filing multiple “Continuation” applications, with different, but not identical, claim language. The practice is within the rules and last month the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the practice in the case of 132 patents covering Abbvie’s drug Humira, stating “What’s wrong with having lots of patents?”
  • How Do Trademarks Work?
    When you start a small business, you need a way to differentiate your products or services from those of your competitors so that your customers can better identify them. That’s where trademarks come into play. Trademarks and service marks are essentially surrounding us at all times, guiding our purchase decisions—whether we realize it or not. Like that of Nike or Coco-Cola, some are even known famously throughout the world, which is the level of brand recognition that many businesses hope to achieve. Regardless of the size of your business, without a registered trademark, you’re running a huge risk of letting your competitors steal your ideas, concepts, and unique style of branding. Not to mention your money. This article will talk about what a trademark and service mark is, how it works, and why your business needs one.
  • What Is a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
    Non-disclosure agreements are contracts meant to protect a business's private information, i.e., trade secrets and other sensitive information. In many corporate settings, employees are expected to sign NDAs to prevent the business's competitors from hiring those employees and obtaining access to sensitive, protected information. This article will discuss how non-disclosure agreements work, what they protect, and the essential components involved in drafting them.
  • What Is "Likelihood of Confusion," and Why Is It Hurting My Trademark Application?
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has the final word on whether a company's intellectual property qualifies for trademark protection under federal law. By applying for a trademark through the USPTO, businesses attempt to register logos, brands, or slogans to prevent misuse or outright theft.
  • Patent Filing Decision-Making for Innovators
    Deciding what type of patent to file and how to deal with prior art searching present some of the first IP decision-making challenges that inventors face. This article provides some tips that may help innovators make effective decisions regarding their patent filings.
  • Patent Filing Pitfalls That Innovators Should Avoid
    Although patents can provide strong protection for an enterprise’s innovation, this branch of law also comes with some unforgiving filing deadlines that innovators should keep in mind. This article provides a few common pitfalls below that can trip up the unwary.
  • Actions on Intellectual Property That Innovators Should Consider Taking
    When it comes to Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets, taking the right actions, early on, can help an entrepreneur or small business save a lot of money and maybe some trouble down the road.
  • IP Squatters – What Are They and How to Get Rid of Them
    Intellectual property rights are similar to other items that someone wants to acquire where there are registrations that a person can fill out and acquire the rights to certain IP such as copyrighted materials. Someone in another country or even in the United States can acquire the trademark, copyright or patent a person wants to file and may need to challenge the right to use the IP.
  • 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.

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