Patents Explained

What is a Utility Patent?

A utility patent can be obtained for a new or improved machine, article of manufacture, chemical composition, process, computer software or business method, or even an e-commerce business model or enabling technology for the Internet. A patent allows you to prevent anyone from producing, using, selling, or importing your invention without your permission. A design patent allows you to protect the ornamental features of an article of manufacture.

Utility Patent Applications

New, useful, and non-obvious inventions may be protected by utility patents. There are two ways to enter the utility patent process. First, you may file a regular utility patent application. Or, you may file a provisional patent application, which must be converted later into a regular utility patent application. Once a utilitypatent issues, it is effective from its date of issuance until twenty years from its filing date, and under limited circumstances can be effective for a longer period. To maintain the patent, maintenance fees periodically must be paid. See “patent process” for more details.

New and non-obvious ornamental features of articles of manufacture may be protected by design patents. A design patent essentially is a set of drawings of your product. Design patent applications are examined just like utility patent applications, except that utility is not required of an inventive design. Design patents are effective for fourteen years from their date of issuance.

Foreign Patents

You may also obtain patents in non-U.S. countries for your invention. Foreign patent rules are often different from U.S. rules. If you desire foreign patent protection, you can start by consulting a U.S. patent attorney who works with foreign associates, as we do.

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