You do not need a patent in order to sell a product or offer a service in the United States. You may want to obtain a patent, if your invention meets the criteria, because a patent conveys a valuable right that makes it harder for others to compete with you. A patent is the grant of a property right to an inventor giving that inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing his invention for a certain period of time.

Protecting intellectual property through the use of patents has a long tradition in the United States. Patents are mentioned in our Constitution in Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”, and the first Patent Act was signed into law in 1790. Our current U.S. Patent Law clearly spells out the purpose of a patent, which is “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States…” Patents protect more than just tangible products, such as machines or articles of manufacture or compositions; patents also can be used to protect methods or processes.

Three Types of U.S. Patents

In the United States, we recognize three types of patents:

Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;

Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and

Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

No Worldwide Patent Is Available

A U.S. patent protects inventions only within the United States and its territories. Most other countries have their own patent offices and issue patents. Unfortunately, there is no “worldwide” patent that can be enforced in all countries.

No “Provisional Patent” Is Available

The U.S. offers a program whereby an invention disclosure may be filed under the designation “provisional patent application”. The provisional patent application will not be examined and will never issue as a patent. For the provisional filing fee paid, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office simply holds onto the invention disclosure for one year. Because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is doing such holding, the provisional applicant may indicate that the invention is “patent pending”. That is it. To secure a patent, a utility patent application must be filed.

Ask Pat for assistance to evaluate your invention for patenting.

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