Patents are a form of intellectual property law.
Title 35 United States Code § 101 states that “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title”. Title 35 United States Code § 102 requires that the invention is novel and Title 35 United States Code § 103 requires that the invention is non-obvious. The novelty requirement is that it is a new and novel idea. The non-obvious requirement is that it is not obvious to someone skilled in the arts.
Patent Protection for a Utility Patent is currently 20 year from the filing date. There are certain time requirements for filing a patent application; in the United States it is generally one year from the public sale or disclosure of the invention. These time bars can be complicated, so if you are worried about these you will need to contact the Patent Office, Patent Attorney or a Patent Agent. In Europe, Japan and most other countries any public disclosure is a complete bar to receiving a patent.
What do the terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” mean? They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.
If two or more persons work together to make an invention, to whom will the patent be granted? If each had a share in the ideas forming the invention as defined in the claims – even if only as to one claim, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application. If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.
Along with Utility Patents there are Design Patents and Plant Patents. Design Patents protect an ornamental design of an item. The patent protection is 14 years from the filing date. Plant Patents protect new types of plants.
There are also Provisional Patents. Provisional Patents are patent applications that serve as a sort of place holder. You get the effective filing date of the Provisional Patent for a Utility Patent if you file for the Utility Patent within one year of the filing date of the Provisional Patent. If you filed for a Provisional Patent you are allowed to say “Patent Pending”. Filing a Provisional Patent allows you to see how well a product sells before going through the costs of filing a Utility Patent. Provisional Patents are not examined by the Patent Office.
Your intellectual property rights are some of the most valuable assets that you have. If someone uses the invention that is covered by your patent, you may be entitled to bring an infringement action against them to protect your rights.