- Introductory Primer on Patent Laws
- July 6, 2011
- Law Firm: Klemchuk Kubasta LLP - Dallas Office
Under U.S. patent laws, an inventor or owner of record of a patent has the right to stop an unauthorized person from making commercial use of an invention. In other words, patent laws grant the inventor exclusive rights in the invention for a period of time, so that he or she can profit from the invention before the right to exploit it is available to the general public.
A U.S. patent must be applied for from the federal government in accordance with patent laws. A patent will only be granted if the invention is novel, unobvious, and useful in accordance with patent laws. U.S. patent laws allow patents for plants and other life forms, designs of manufactured products, machines, processes, and combinations of matter. Other countries and patent governing bodies may not allow certain innovations to be protected under the patent laws of their respective countries or governing bodies. Depending on the type of innovation, U.S. patent laws provide an inventor to apply for at least one of four types of patent applications - provisional, utility, plant, and design applications.
Provisional patent applications are not formally examined by the USPTO under U.S. patent laws. Instead, U.S. patent laws provide that applicants for provisional applications could file an informal application disclosing their invention, receive a filing date, and secure a one-year time period to convert the application to a formal application - either a utility, plant, or design. Utility, plant, and design patent applications are formally examined by the USPTO and must meet certain criteria under patent laws before issuing as a U.S. Patent. Utility and plant patents are valid for 20 years from the date of filing, while design patents are valid for 14 years from the date of filing under patent laws.
Under U.S. patent laws, inventors should be aware that certain disclosures, offers for sale, and publications could bar an inventor from obtaining a patent. In the U.S., there is a one-year grace period from the date of public disclosure, offer for sale, or publication to file for a utility patent. There is a six-month grace period for design patents. In many foreign countries, however, any public disclosure could prohibit an inventor from obtaining patent protection under a country’s patent laws. It is thus advisable for inventors to take precautions when discussing their invention to third parties and diligently seek the advice of counsel to learn and adhere to patent laws.