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Patents FAQ

Frequently asked questions

A U.S. patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor(s), issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The intellectual property right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant 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. Here is the process for obtaining a utility patent. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant
A provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention which can be claimed in a later filed nonprovisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned twelve months after its filing date and is not examined. An applicant who decides to initially file a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier provisional application filing. A nonprovisional application is examined by a patent examiner at USPTO, and may be issued as a patent if all the requirements for patentability are met. Each year the USPTO receives approximately 500,000 patent applications. Most of the applications filed with the USPTO are nonprovisional applications for utility patents.
A utility patent can be applied for any new and useful process, machine , manufacture, or composition of matter. Additionally, a utility patent can be applied for any new and useful improvement to process, machine , manufacture, or composition of matter.
  • Process – an act, or a series of acts or steps;
  • Machine – a concrete thing, consisting of parts, or of certain devices and combination of devices;
  • Manufacture – an article produced from raw or prepared materials by giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties, or combinations, whether by hand labor or by machinery;
  • Composition of matter – all compositions of two or more substances and all composite articles, whether they be the results of chemical union, or of mechanical mixture, or whether they be gases, fluids, powders or solids, for example.
A design patent can be applied for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A plant patent can be granted to a person who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.
Utility patents are granted for the term of twenty (20 ) years from the date you first applied for the patent application subject to the payment of appropriate maintenance fees. For design patents filed on or after May 13, 2015, the term of the issued design patent is fifteen (15) years from the date of grant.  For design patents filed before May 13, 2015, the term of the issued design patent is fourteen (14) years. Plant patents are granted for the term of twenty (20 ) years from the date you first applied for the patent application subject to the payment of appropriate maintenance fees.
A utility patent protects useful and functional inventions, while a design patent protects the way that an article of manufacture looks.  Many items are protected by multiple design and utility patents, as the function of the types of patents complements one another.
Abstract ideas, physical phenomena, and laws of nature are not patentable. However, methods and products employing abstract ideas, physical phenomena, and laws of nature to perform a real-world function may be patentable.
If you want to profit from it, the answer is likely YES. If you don’t, someone else will. There are seven billion people living on our planet. Many people face and try to solve the same or similar problems you are trying to solve with your invention. It is likely that someone else will find the same or similar solution to this problem. Moreover, she may well file for a patent application directed toward the same invention as well. The present U.S. patent law favors the inventor who first files a patent application; not the first inventor who conceives the invention. Moreover, when one inventor publicly discloses the invention, another inventor of the same invention can no longer obtain a patent directed at the same invention.
Under the current U.S. patent law, a Micro Entity is entitled to receive a 75% discount on various patent prosecution fees. For example, a Micro Entity needs to pay only a $65 application filling fee for a provisional patent application, while a regular entity pays a $260 application filling fee for a provisional patent application. A Micro Entity is defined as an applicant who certifies that he/she:
  • Qualifies as a Small Entity;
  • Has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed patent applications;
  • Did not, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is paid, have a gross income exceeding 3 times the median household income. For the calendar year 2016 (the most recent available) three times the median household income is $169,548; and
  • Has not assigned, granted, or conveyed (and is not under obligation to do so) a license or other ownership interest in the application concerned to an entity that, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is paid, had a gross income exceeding 3 times the median household income.
It should be noted that each applicant and each inventor have to qualify as a Micro Entity for the applicant(s) to receive the 75% discount on patent prosecution fees. Alternatively, an applicant can also qualify as a Micro Entity if he/she:
  • Qualifies as a Small Entity;
  • Is employed by an institute of higher education; and
  • Has assigned, or is obligated to assign, ownership to that institute of higher education.
No. You don’t have to wait until you build the product or prototype before you apply for a patent for your invention. However, you should know that an idea alone is not patentable. The “idea” is the first critical step toward obtaining a patent. However, you need to disclose enough details to satisfy the written description and enablement requirements of the patent code. The enablement requirement mandates that you describe your invention in such terms that a person of ordinary skill in the art is able to make and use your invention without undue experimentation. You can rely on the skills that a typical practitioner in the field of your invention would have; i.e., if your invention is in the field of furniture, you can rely on standard construction techniques being known and you do not have to disclose such in detail in the application. However, you must describe any elements of your invention that are patentably distinct from the prior art in detail, as, by definition, a person of skill in the art would not be aware of these elements. The written description requirement requires that your description must describe your invention in sufficient detail that one skilled in the art can reasonably conclude that you have possession of the invention. The detailed description must clearly describe every element of your invention that you intend to recite in the claims of your application.

PATENTS FAQ

This page collects frequently asked questions that lawyers at Sherinian Law have encountered throughout our career, or that have been posed by readers of this site. This page will grow over time; if you do not see the answer to your question today, check back in the future – you may find it then.