What is a Patent?

A patent is a piece of property whose limits are set by the patent claims. A patent is valid for 20 years from the filing date of the patent, once the patent is allowed, provided maintenance fees are paid. Patents are enforceable in U.S. Federal Courts.

Who decides whether a patent application should be allowed?

It is the job of the patent examiner at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to issue valid patents. Decisions of the patent examiner can be appealed internally to a Board of Appeals. Board decisions can be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

What can I patent?

A patent can be obtained for new methods, compositions of matter and articles of manufacture. Also, a new use of a known product is patentable. Currently, provided that you are not claiming a law of nature, i.e., E=mc2, or a purely mathematical algorithm, software is also patentable.

How long does it take to get a Patent?

In a perfect world, a patent application would be examined on the day it was filed and would be allowed that afternoon. However, the world is far from perfect. It typically takes at least six months, usually closer to a year, for the ExaminerŒs initial action on the merits of the application. Once examined, it is not unusual for an Office Action to issue that addresses reasons why the Examiner found the application to not be patentable. The Applicant then must respond, in writing, to the Examiner, either with claim amendments or arguments concerning why the Examiner is incorrect. This process usually takes 3 to 6 months. If the Examiner should still disagree with you, then a final Office Action could issue and require yet another response on the part of the Applicant. All in all, the patent process takes about two years, provided you do not appeal the Examiner's decision to the Board of Appeals, which could prolong the patent process by up to three or four years.

Why should I spend thousands of dollars on a patent attorney, when I can just do it myself?

A patent attorney can guide you through the maze of rules and regulations that is the U.S. Patent Office. Without an attorney familiar with the rules of practice and the proper form of an application, you might waste valuable time and end up with a patent that is less than all it could be. Without a patent attorney to guide you through the Patent Office, you would be doing yourself a disservice in prosecuting your patent yourself. Chances are pretty high that you will end up with a patent that is what the Patent Examiner likes, rather than what you want or deserve. If you're planning on marketing your invention, then you want the broadest possible patent protection available, and nothing less. For this, you should turn to an experienced attorney.


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