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Patents: Introduction

Information about patents and related resources.

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REFERENCE

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What is a Patent?

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. government through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.

The terms “Patent Pending” and “Patent Applied For” are used to inform the public that an application for a patent has been filed. Patent protection does not start until the date the patent is granted. Marking of an article as patented when it is not is illegal and subject to penalty. 

A patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion. Patent applications are examined for both technical and legal merit.

A patent is different from either a copyright or a trademark.

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. A utility patent in force on June 8, 1995 lasts for either 17 years from the date the patent was granted or 20 years from the earliest effective U.S. filing date, whichever is longer.
  • Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A design patent lasts for 14 years from the date the patent was granted.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. A plant patent in force on June 8, 1995 lasts for either 17 years from the date the patent was granted or 20 years from the earliest effective U.S. filing date, whichever is longer.

General Information About Patents

These sources provide an overview of the basic principles of patent law. They are a good place to pegin learning about patents.