A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the USPTO. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. US patent grants are effective only within the United States, US territories, and US possessions.
The right conferred by the patent grant is, “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. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention
When considering whether to patent an idea for a product, your patent attorney will ask the following questions:
1. Has someone already patented or published your idea? Conducting a patent search for existing patents and documents is key to determining whether your idea may be patentable.
2. Will your invention be profitable? On the issue of profitability, you should consider the costs of obtaining a patent, as well as the costs of marketing and producing the product.
There are also maintenance fees, and possibly, costs of filing for additional patents, as improvements and expanded markets are identified. You will also need to consider the costs of hiring an attorney to help you with the complicated patent filing process. The costs of marketing and producing the product will vary depending on the product, and the degree to which you rely on professional services, such as marketing firms and manufacturing companies.
3. What are the alternatives to obtaining a patent? In addition to evaluating the potential upside of obtaining a patent, you should also consider the disadvantages. Once you obtain a patent, others will be free to examine your product and potentially copy or improve it.
Although a patent theoretically protects you from infringement, pursuing litigation against an infringer can be costly. Also, some inventions that have a brief market life or small market niche may not be worth patenting if you think you can enter the market before others have time to react and imitate your product.
If you are an individual inventor who wants to protect the technology of your business or collect royalties from the companies who license your invention, you need a patent attorney to make sure your utility or design patent is properly filed and prosecuted before the USPTO.
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