If you are applying for a patent, it is important to know how long these legal protections will be granted to you. Generally, patents are issued for 20-year terms, but this depends on the type of patent, the filing date, and a number of other details about the patent you are either applying for or already hold. Take a look below to learn more about patents and patent terms, and contact The Patent Professor today for professional help with any of your patent issues and questions. We have over 20 years of experience helping clients with all of their patent needs and will be happy to help you as well.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a legal tool that is given to an inventor in order to protect them from having their intellectual property reproduced, sold, marketed, or manufactured without their authorization. In the United States, patent applications and patent management are both handled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Patents are issued for many different things but are divided into three major categories: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. In addition to these main categories, there is an additional option for new patents called a “Provisional Application” that grants the innovator limited rights for a limited term.

How Long Do Patents Last?

There are a lot of different factors that go into how long a patent is granted for, primarily the type of patent. Read more below about each patent, the current terms, and any additional details that may change your own patent term length. In order to maintain your patent through the entire term, you must pay all required maintenance fees as they come due to the USPTO. If you fail to pay the proper fees, then your patent may expire prematurely.

Utility Patent Term Length

Utility Patents Filed After June 8, 1995

If you filed for your utility patent on or after June 8, 1995, then your utility patent term is 20 years. As stated above, your patent will expire before the set term limit if you do not keep current on all of your necessary maintenance fees, so it is important to be sure that these payments are made on time.

Utility Patents Filed before June 8, 1995

Before this date, there were two possible lengths of time that your patent would last:
  • 17 years from the date that your patent was issued
  • 20 years from the date that you initially filed your patent application
Whichever of these two is longer is the accurate term length. This means that if your application took less than 3 years from filing to issuing, that you have 20 years from that date. If your application took more than 3 years from application to filing, then you have 17 years from the date it was issued.

Plant Patent Term Length

Plant patents filed or issued at any time are given term lengths of 20 years provided that all maintenance fees are paid on time and consistently.

Design Patent Term Length

Design Patents Filed After May 13, 1995

If you filed your design patent on or after May 13, 1995, then your patent comes with a 15-year term, provided that you stay current on all necessary maintenance fees.

Design Patents Filed Before May 13, 1995

If you filed your design patent before May 13, 1995, then your patent comes with a 14-year term, provided that you continue to pay all required maintenance fees associated with that patent.

Provisional Applications for Patents

In many cases, an inventor may submit a provisional application for a patent while they are gathering missing information about their intellectual property. When a provisional application is submitted, the intellectual property-holder is given a 12-month period of limited protection and rights. Essentially, this provisional application acts to establish a submission date before the complete patent is submitted, and allows for an extra year of protection under the designation “Patent Pending.” If you do not submit a patent application before your provisional application expires, then you will be unable to submit a full application for your intellectual property.

Extending Your Patent Term

In very specific instances, you can apply to have your patent extended to account for the amount of testing required to approve the sale of your intellectual property. This is common in the pharmaceutical industry, because of the rigorous clinical testing that a compound must undergo before it is allowed for public use. In cases where your patent application took remarkably long to be approved, you may additionally be able to apply for an extension in order to compensate for the lost time. If you believe that you have a reasonable argument for the extension of your patent term, contact The Patent Professor today to speak with an experienced patent lawyer in Florida about your situation.