This guide is an introduction to patents and the patent granting process. It will help you understand what a patent and prepare your patent application.
Understanding Patents - basics
Although this guide is not exhaustive of the Patent law and does not replace professional advice from a registered fort worth patent attorney, we have prepared as an introduction to patents and patenting process.
Patents are a driving force of progress
Scientific progress and the economic power of developed countries in technology like US depend on the patent system.
By giving inventors a monopoly over their inventions for a specified period, patents protect investments and allow inventors to benefit financially from their creativity. This gives an interesting stimulus for research and development, and ultimately all American benefit. If it was not possible to get the protection offered by patents, many people might refuse to take risks or to invest the time or money needed to design and development of new products. These activities are essential to the growth of our economy.
Patents, however, do not just make money and stimulate creativity. They also provide a method to disseminate cutting-edge information. Each patent document describes in clear and precise a new facet of technology and is accessible to all. Thus, these documents provide essential resources for businesses, researchers, academics and others who need to keep abreast of developments in their fields.
What is a patent?
By giving you, the inventor, patent, the government gives you the right to exclude others from making, use or sell your invention, and at the date of grant and for a maximum period of 20 years from the filing date of your patent application.
In return, you must provide a detailed description of your invention so that all Americans can benefit from advances in technology and knowledge. Patent applications are made public 18 months after the earliest of these dates:
• the filing date in US;
• the date of foreign filing if you request it and if you meet certain conditions (the latter date being called "convention priority date").
People can then take notice of your invention, but not to manufacture, operate it or sell it without your permission.
You can also use your patent to generate profit by selling it, by licensing or using as active in negotiating funding.
The rights conferred by a US patent apply to all of US, but not to foreign countries, where you have to get separate rights. Similarly, a foreign patent does not protect an invention in US.
Sometimes mingles between the patent and trademark, copyright, industrial design and integrated circuit topography. Such as patents, these are rights granted for intellectual character creations and these are forms of intellectual property. However, there are important differences:
The patents cover inventions (product, composition of materials, equipment and process) and any improvement of an existing invention, having the character of novelty and usefulness.
The trademarks may consist of one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others.
The copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) as well as other types of works, such as performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
The industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features, of a finished object.
The integrated circuit topographies are three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
You may be tempted to protect your creation by simply not disclosing information about it and selling this creation. This information is called trade secret. (For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola is a trade secret.)
The advantage of keeping a trade secret is that you do not have to reveal your innovation to the public as you must do when a patent is granted to you.
What can be patented?
Suppose you come to invent an electric door lock. How do you know if you can patent it? To be patentable, your invention must meet three basic conditions: novelty, utility and inventive step.
New - For you to be granted a patent, the invention (the door lock) must be the first of its kind in the world.
Utility - A valid patent cannot be obtained for something that does not work or that has no useful function. The doors lock to operate.
Inventive - To be patentable, your invention must provide a new improvement or an improvement of an existing technology that would not have been obvious to a person working in your specialized field. The door lock must add something that is not obvious to the people of competence in the field of door locks.
To be patentable, your invention can be:
a product (a door lock)
a composition of matter (a chemical compound used in door locks lubricants)
an apparatus (a machine for making door locks)
a method (a method for making door locks)
an improvement of one of these elements
In fact, 90% of patents are improvements made to previously patented inventions!
Although you can obtain a patent for an improvement of an already patented invention, you should know that the original patent may still be in force. If this is the case, manufacture or marketing of the upgraded product may be infringing the original patent. This problem is often solved by an agreement between the patent holders (people who owns the patents) that they grant respectively to each other a license. If you think that this situation might unfold regarding your invention, you should discuss with an patent attorney fort worth.
A patent is granted only for the materialization of an idea (p. Ex. The description of a feasible concrete door lock) or to a process that produces something tangible or can be sold. You can not patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem, an idea, a few methods of doing business or a computer program.