A patent is a legal document that allows the owner of the patent to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling a patented invention.  A patent provides a competitive advantage to the patent owner because of the right to exclude others. In other words, a patent provides a monopoly to the patent owner for the patented invention. The monopoly is granted only for a limited period of time. The period of time that a patent may be enforceable is known as the patent term.

There are different types of patents, including a plant patent, design patent and utility patent.  Each type of patent provides protection to a different type of the invention.  The claims of a patent are the most important part of a patent. The patent term will vary depending on the type of patent.    The duration of the patent is calculated from the earliest filing date. However, in certain circumstances, for example when delays are caused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) under 35 U.S.C. §§ 154 – 156, the term or duration of a patent may be extended.

A utility patent grants protection for the functional aspects of an invention. An invention may be a process, machine, composition of matter or any improvements thereof. 35 U.S.C. §§ 100, 111.  Generally speaking, the patent term of a utility patent is 20 years. The claims of a utility patent are what the inventor and the USPTO believes what is inventive about a patented invention. The claims of a patents should be carefully crafted in order to provide the broadest protection available. In many cases every word of the patent claims of a utility patent should be carefully chosen in order to properly protect an invention.

A utility patent does not grant protection to the aesthetic or ornamental features of a design of a manufactured article.  The ornamental features of a manufactured article may be protected by a design patent.  A design patent grants protection for the ornamental features of manufactured articles.  35 U.S.C. §§ 171-173.  A design patent does not protect the functional aspects of the invention. However, a manufactured article may be entitled to design and utility patent protection.  The patent term of a design patent is 14 years. The main focus of a design patent are the figures or drawings. The lines of the drawings, whether they are solid or dashed, have different meanings when used in a design patent. The figures or drawings of a design patent should be carefully illustrated to properly protect new or inventive design.

A plant patent is granted by the government to an inventor has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a new and distinct variety of plants. 35 U.S.C. §§ 161 – 164. Asexually propagated plants are plants that are plants that are reproduced by means other than seeds, such as by grafting, routing of cuttings, layering etc.

In order to acquire a patent a business owner or inventor must file a patent application with the USPTO.  They are several types of patent applications including a non-provisional patent application, a provisional patent application, a continuation-in-part patent application, a continuation patent application, a reissue application, and a divisional patent application.   The type of patent application that should be filed will depend on an inventor’s or business’s needs.  Our attorneys are available to discuss with you the type of patent application that is most suited to your business or personal needs.

After a patent application is filed with the USPTO, an examining attorney at the USPTO examines the application to determine if it is entitled to patent protection. If an examining attorney believes that the patent application is not entitled to patent protection, then the examining attorney will submit an “office action” explaining the reasons why the patent is not entitled to patent protection. After receiving an office action, a patent attorney may respond to the office action arguing why the patent should be entitled to protection based upon the law. The back and forth between the patent attorney and the USPTO examining attorney is known as patent prosecution. Our attorneys here at the firm are registered patent attorneys and are experienced in patent prosecution.  Our patent attorneys have represented numerous clients before the USPTO. If you have any questions regarding an office action that you received, or would like to have a second opinion as to how to prosecute your patent application, our registered patent attorneys at the firm are available to assist you.  The following are just some of the patents and patent publications that have already been obtained or filed by registered patent attorneys Mark Terry, Esq. and Derek Fahey, Esq..

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