If you have a unique invention or a great idea, you can protect it by getting a patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A patent attorney can help you with matters related to patents, including how to obtain one. In addition, if you already have a patent and you feel that the patent has been infringed upon, you can hire a patent attorney to protect your intellectual property from being used or copied.
If you need legal guidance in patent-related matters or need representation in court, you can hire a seasoned patent attorney. We welcome you to contact us at Greenberg & Lieberman LLC. We are proud to be a leader in various practice areas, including patent litigation. Our law firm, based out of Washington, is proud to have experienced patent lawyers representing clients from all around the globe, ranging from large organizations to individual inventors. Please continue reading about patents and why you need a patent attorney.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a type of intellectual property that provides exclusive statutory rights to a patentee by the government. It excludes others from copying, making, selling, or using the invention that has been patented. In most cases, a patent has a limited period, after which the patent expires, and the invention enters the public domain, where anyone can use it without infringing upon the patent.
An invention can be new and innovative; however, to qualify as a patent, it must be useful, unique, and non-obvious. Several categories of inventions are not patentable, including purely theoretical formulas, methods used to perform surgery on humans, any invention used for illegal purposes, and more. In addition, creative content such as music or poetry is subject to copyright protection rather than patent protection.
What Are the Different Types of Patents?
According to the U.S. Code Title 35 of the USPTO, there are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can reissue patents if the scope of the patent needs alteration or if an error in the patent needs fixing. The USPTO also has the authority to issue statutory invention registration (SIR), which is not a patent; however, it provides limited protection for the invention. Most types of patents require periodic maintenance fee payments to keep their patent active. Here is more information on the three types of patents:
Utility patents are closely related to function. They are referred to as “patents for inventions”. A person can obtain a utility patent if they have invented something new with a useful purpose, such as processes, manufacturing, the composition of matter, or machines. Examples of inventions that utility patents can protect include tools, software, investment strategy, chemical composition, and medical equipment. A business method patent is a type of utility patent that covers a business process rather than a physical object.
A utility patent can also be issued for improvement on an existing intellectual property if the improvement is distinct and meaningful. This could include using the invention for a new purpose or invigorating the invention with a new form of technology.
In most cases, a utility patent is valid for 20 years from when the patent application was filed. The requirements to obtain a utility patent include that the invention must be operational, non-obvious, and provide practical or real-world benefits.
A design patent is issued for a new and original ornamental design. The are more common than their utility counterparts. The patent only protects the “surface ornamentation of the object, not its function. A utility patent will be needed to protect the object’s structural features or functions. One of the requirements of design patents is that the design must be inseparable from the object. A design patent offers 15-year protection from the date the patent is granted. A design patent is less common and typically less expensive to obtain compared to a utility patent.
A plant patent can be obtained for the invention or discovery of a distinct and new plant. To obtain the plant patent, the plant must be able to be asexually reproduced, is not a tuber-propagated plant, and is not found in an uncultivated state. A plant patent excludes others from using, making, or selling the plant for up to 20 years from the date the patent was filed.
Patent Application Process
The first step in a patent application is to prepare all the paperwork required to file a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The type of perpetration needed will depend on the type of patent. In most cases, you must complete certain U.S. Patent and Trademark Office forms, provide a background of the invention, and provide detailed written descriptions of the patent. The description can include text and drawings to explain how to make and use the invention. In addition, the patent office will also ensure the patent does not create unfair competition. Patent applicants must disclose any information they know is relevant to the intellectual property.
After all the paperwork is ready, you will submit it to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for official examination. First, the Office of Initial Patent Examination will review the application to check if all application requirements have been followed. After the initial examination, the next step is substantive examination, followed by a response that can include rejections and objections. Finally, after the requirements have been met and procedures have been completed, the applicant is required to deposit an issue fee at the patent office to get the patent granted.
Why You Need a Patent Attorney
Even after inventing something revolutionary, useful, and unique, an inventor might not be able to benefit from it if they can’t obtain a patent on their invention on time. In addition, it is common for inventors to feel frustrated about being able to protect their invention, as the patenting process can be complex and exhausting. The Patent Act does not mandate that attorneys file patent applications; however, you could benefit from hiring a patent attorney for the filing process. In addition, patent attorneys can help navigate the complex processes of obtaining a patent, enforcing patent infringement, and other issues related to patent law.
Patent attorneys are experienced in patent law and have also passed the United States Patent and Trademark Office patent registration exam that measures the applicants’ knowledge of federal rules and regulations, patent procedures, and ethical guidelines.
The patent laws can be beyond the understanding of an inventor, which increases the possibility of making mistakes in the application process. These mistakes can lead to patent rejection or unnecessary delay in obtaining the patent.
A registered patent attorney is well-versed in intellectual property law, legal aspects, and trends. They also handle the complexity of patent drafting and filing, including following all guidelines for descriptions and diagrams required to secure a patent. In addition, patent attorneys know how an examiner will review a patent application and if any issues with your patent application need to be addressed. Patent attorneys can also guide you on the paper for amendments to the patent and provide sound advice to expedite the process.
You should not confuse a patent attorney with a patent agent. Although a patent agent offers similar services related to a patent, a patent agent cannot help in legal matters, such as prosecuting a patent infringement. You need an attorney for all legal proceedings related to the patent. A patent agent may be less expensive, but if you want to secure your intellectual property rights, you should consider hiring an attorney. If you are considering hiring a patent agent, you should have an initial consultation with them to determine if your case requires legal expertise to protect your intellectual property rights.
FAQs about Patent Cases
How long does the patent application procedure take?
The time required to complete the entire patent depends on several factors, including the type of patent. You can expect around 22-25 months to get a patent after completing all steps required to file a patent. In some cases, you can seek a prioritized examination for your application and complete the process in 6 to 12 months. However, you can expect some delay if there is a backlog of patent applications. It is best to seek the guidance of a patent attorney to expedite the process, especially if there is a delay due to application errors or not submitting all the required paperwork.
What is patent infringement?
Patent infringement is when a person or company uses patented intellectual property without permission from the patent holder. The patent holder can grant permission in the form of a license. There are various types of patent infringement, including direct, indirect, contributory, induced, and literal. The legal definition of patent infringement can vary by jurisdiction. In addition, patents can be territorial, which means the patent infringement may not be applicable in certain countries. Patent attorneys can help you fight for your intellectual property rights.
What is the difference between a patent, copyright, and trademark?
A patent, such as a utility patent, is designed to protect inventions of new products or processes. Copyright protects unpublished or published original works such as art, music, or literature. A trademark protects the symbols, words, logos, or other devices that identify or distinguish a person or company from another company.
Generally, there is no overlap between a patent, copyright, and trademark; however, in some cases, that could be the case. Patent attorneys can guide you on whether any overlap applies to your case and which type of protection is best for your intellectual property based on applicable patent law.