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An Overview of Patent Law

Intellectual property is an important factor in professional success. When it comes to your business, innovative ideas and inventions are paramount. At Bush Intellectual Property Law, we understand the importance of protecting your ideas. That's why we advise a wide range of clients—from individual inventors to large corporations—on patents and intellectual property (IP) law.

The Patent Process

In order to obtain a patent on an invention in the United States, a patent application must be submitted to the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). The application must meet specific legal requirements and should properly capture the invention. Upon receiving a patent, the owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention in the United States.

It is typically preferable to perform a patent novelty search prior to preparing and filing a patent application. A patent novelty search looks for "prior art" that may prevent a patent from being allowed and thus provides useful information to assist in determining whether to proceed with the patent application process.

Notarized Issued Documents

Patent Types

Utility patents are issued for processes, machines, manufactured articles, compositions of matter, or improvements to any of these. There are two types of utility patent applications: provisional and non-provisional applications.

A provisional utility application is active for 1 year, but will not issue as a patent. It serves to secure a filing date that can be relied upon by a later filed non-provisional application for the invention disclosed in the provisional application. A non-provisional utility application is substantively examined by the USPTO for patentability and is the type that issues as a patent. Utility patents are effective for 20 years from the earliest non-provisional application priority date with payment of periodic maintenance fees.

A design patent protects the ornamental design (external appearance) of an article of manufacture. A design patent is effective for 15 years from the issue date.

The U.S. Patent System

The United States patent system is a "first inventor to file" system. Under this system, a patent is awarded to the first inventor to file a patent application for a patentable invention, whether or not the inventor was in fact the first inventor of the invention. Consequently, it is preferable to file a patent application for an invention as soon as practicable to secure a filing date.

Patent applicants in the United States are given a 1-year grace period following a public disclosure of an invention before they are required to file a patent application; however, it is typically preferable to file a patent application before making a public disclosure to avoid the risk of losing US patent rights.

Foreign Protection

Foreign patent applications can be filed that claim priority to a U.S. patent application if the foreign applications are filed within specific time periods. Most foreign countries require "absolute" novelty of an invention—that is to say, a patent application must be filed before the invention is publicly disclosed or foreign patent rights may be lost. Consequently, if there is a desire to seek patent protection in foreign countries, you should not publicly disclose the invention until a patent application has been filed.

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