If you have come up with an invention that you believe is unique and valuable, it is strongly suggested that you file a patent to protect your ideas from being reproduced. Filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be a complicated process, but the reward of navigating the application can be extremely rewarding when you are able to pursue your invention without worrying about competitors copying you. Luckily, there are many professionals in the country who are experienced in patent law and are available to help.
What Is a Patent?
A patent is a legal right for an individual or company to exclusively pursue an invention or design for a set period of time. During the time that a patent is active, no other party is able to replicate the protected aspects of the patent, giving the inventor a period of time to focus on development without fear of someone copying their intellectual property. Patents were put into place in the United States to encourage inventors and creators to pursue unique ideas without the threat of losing their idea or potential success to another party. There are a few different types of patents in the United States:
A design patent is issued to protect a unique appearance or aesthetic of the patented item(s). A well-known design patent is Apple’s iPhone, iPad, or MacBook lines. The appearances of these devices are protected by U.S. design patent laws and bars anyone else from replicating the look of any of these items, and anything else by Apple protected by a design patent. Car manufacturers, fashion designers, and many others hold design patents to separate their products from others and ensure they will not be “knocked off.”
A plant patent is issued when an individual “invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant” and wishes to protect this discovery from being reproduced before they are able to capitalize on it. The plant must be reproduced asexually to prove that it can be duplicated. Plants grown from seed, as well as tubers (like potatoes) are ineligible for plant patents.
A provisional application is a lower-cost, but less-restrictive, initial patent submission. This “first patent” is valid for 12 months, and the provisional application-holder is able to use the status of “patent pending” on their design, invention, or plant during that period. The provisional application must be converted within 12 months to be granted a full patent.
A utility patent is the most commonly-applied for patent in the United States Patent and Trade Office. This patent protects any machine, manufacture, process, or composition that is new and novel for a 20-year term.
A “machine” in the sense of a utility patent is any object that would be referred to as such, like a computer, vehicle, coffee maker, etc.
A “manufacture” is a good that has been created through a manufacturing process.
A “process” is a unique method to create something.
A “composition” refers to a unique combination or production of a novel chemical or mixture of ingredients.
What is a Patent Attorney, and Why Would I Need One?
A patent attorney is a legal professional who focuses on filing, maintaining, and protecting patents. There are a variety of reasons that you would benefit from the help of a patent attorney.
The process of filing for a U.S. Patent can be complicated and confusing. Retaining the services of a patent attorney can be extremely helpful to be sure that all required information and documentation is submitted in a timely fashion, and ensures that your patent will not be denied because of procedural errors or omitted information.
If you feel that your patent has been infringed on, having the support of a patent attorney will be extremely important in making your case and defending your exclusive rights to your patented design, utility, or plant. If you feel that your patent is being copied, you should consult with an attorney immediately to determine the next steps and protect your invention from being replicated without your authorization and without any financial benefit to you.
When Is It Important to File For a Patent?
If you do not file a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Offices, then your novel invention can be replicated by anyone who wants to. Initially, this means that anyone who brings the same product to market will become your direct competitor, while using your unique invention. Secondly, if you have not filed for a patent, someone else may possibly do so and block you from legal access to monetizing your own invention.
What Does My Patent Protect Me From?
A patent protects you from a variety of things. First, it protects you from fearing that your invention will be replicated by someone else while you are working on funding, manufacturing, production, sales, or anything else you need to put in place to benefit from your work. Patents are designed to protect inventors from seeing their novel creation be taken to market by someone else unfairly. Oftentimes, the “first to market” has an enormous advantage, and this could be very detrimental to the inventor.
Secondly, your patent protects you from entering the market, only to see your invention be obscured in a variety of knock-offs that diminish your brand and unique value. If you release a unique invention into the market, and it is received extremely well but is then buried in a crowd of lower-quality knockoffs, you are suddenly left competing for attention while also trying to deliver a quality product that you believe in.
Should I Hire a Patent Attorney?
If you have an idea or invention that you believe is unique and novel, consult with The Patent Professor today. Your intellectual property is too valuable to risk being lost to the market, and with professional guidance, you can get the protection you need to advance your ideas.