What Does Patent Mean?

By David Carnes

A patent is a legal monopoly on the use and benefit of a unique invention. Patent rights are granted by national governments after a lengthy application and examination process. The patent holder may be the inventor or, as in the case of a work for hire, the inventor’s employer. In the U.S., patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

A patent is a legal monopoly on the use and benefit of a unique invention. Patent rights are granted by national governments after a lengthy application and examination process. The patent holder may be the inventor or, as in the case of a work for hire, the inventor’s employer. In the U.S., patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Eligibility

To qualify for patent protection an invention must be novel, useful and non-obvious. It is novel if nobody has ever invented it before. It is not novel if someone invented it before you did, even if the prior inventor never received a patent for it. It is useful if it is suited to a practical purpose – a scientific theory, for example, cannot be patented. It is non-obvious if it incorporates a creative leap beyond current technology rather than an obvious next step.

File a provisional application for patent online. Get Started Now

Application Process

Before you apply for a patent, check the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization to examine patent applications for prior inventions that may be similar or identical to yours. Your application will require detailed specifications and graphics that will allow the patent examiner to determine if you qualify for protection. The examiner will probably require you to make several amendments to your application over a period of a year or two. After 18 months, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will publish details about your invention in its gazette. Approval of a patent application normally takes two or three years.

Duration

The term of your patent begins running as soon as the Patent and Trademark Office accepts your application. Patent protection extends 20 years beyond this date, except for plant patents, which extend for 14 years. Between the date your application is received and the date it is approved, your application will be in “patent pending” status. Although you cannot sue an infringer while your application is pending, if it is eventually approved you may sue an infringer for acts that occurred while your patent was still pending. After your patent expires, it will enter the public domain, meaning that anyone can use your invention.

Assignment and Licensing

You may sell your patent outright for a lump sum payment (known as an assignment), or grant permission to someone else to manufacture, market and sell your invention in exchange for royalties (known as a license). If you grant an exclusive license, you may not grant a license to anyone else. Depending on the terms of the licensing agreement, you might not even be able to manufacture, market or sell the invention yourself. As long as you grant no exclusive license, however, you may grant an unlimited number of non-exclusive licenses.

File a provisional application for patent online. Get Started Now
Legal Effect of a Patent

References

Related articles

What Are the Three Requirements to Qualify for a Patent?

A U.S. patent gives inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling their inventions in the United States for a term ranging from 14 to 20 years. To qualify for patent protection, an invention must demonstrate to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the invention satisfies three primary requirements.

Ownership vs. Inventorship of a Patent

A patent grants the owner of the patent a temporary legal monopoly on a bundle of rights related to an invention, including the right to profit from it. The inventor, however, is not always the owner of a patent. Patent law provides a number of ways in which someone can obtain patent rights over technology invented by another.

What Are Patents?

Article I of the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to grant patents to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” A patent is a property right that enables an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a limited time. In essence, it gives the inventor a monopoly and the exclusive rights to sell, use, or license the invention. To receive a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose how the invention works. By providing legal protection to new inventions, patents help encourage investments in research and development without fear that another will steal their hard work.

Start here. LegalZoom. Legal help is here. LLCs. Corporations. Patents. Attorney help.

Related articles

Reasons for a Patent

A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There are three types of ...

Principles of Patent Law

U.S. patent law is ultimately based on the federal constitution. In addition, many federal statutes and regulations ...

Difference Between Patent Approved & Patent Licensed?

A patent is a personal property right granted to an inventor under federal law through the U.S Patent and Trademark ...

Can You Get a Patent for an Idea?

You cannot patent an idea alone. If you develop the specifics of your idea, however, you might be able to patent it. A ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED