Utility Patent Lawyer for Riverside County, Orange County and Los Angeles County
A utility patent protects any new invention or functional improvements on existing inventions. A statutory monopoly is granted for a limited time on this invention, in exchange for the inventor providing sufficient teaching of his or her invention to permit a person of ordinary skill in the art to perform the invention. This invention can be to a product, machine, a process, or even composition of matter.
The life of a U.S. utility patent lasts 20 years from the date of filing assuming the patent is granted, but the owner of the patent must pay maintenance fees to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to keep a utility patent from expiring. These fees are due at 3½, 7½, and 11½ years.
Once an invention is shared publicly, international patent rights can be lost, and the one-year timeline within which a U.S. patent application must be filed generally has begun to tick. For this reason, many inventors rush out and file a full-blown, utility patent application. That addresses the uncertainties and also enables inventors to alert people that their invention is “patent pending.” However, that approach can have several downsides.
So before filing for a utility patent application, you might consider filing for a provisional patent application. This allows you one year to test interest in your invention, raise capital, and/or differ some of the cost of the utility patent application, since a provisional applications contains some of the same features found in the utility application. If you want to go forward you will file a non-provisional utility patent, which is the same thing as a utility patent. This route essentially provides an additional year of patent pending status and protects you from spending money on a patent for an invention that isn’t viable.
A provisional patent application is claimless, unexamined, and temporary. The Provisional application is automatically abandoned one year from the date of its filing, and cannot be revived. The time that the Provisional application is pending does not count against the twenty year from effective filing date term of a U.S. Patent. If a utility application [either regular U.S. or PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application designating the U.S.] is filed within one year after a Provisional application then that Utility application takes as a priority date the date that the provisional was filed. As long as one of the inventors named in the provisional is also be named in the utility application.
Once you’ve applied for a utility patent — whether following a provisional patent or not — you will be issued patent pending status until the patent is granted, which can take up to 24 months or longer in certain technical fields.
Some ideas might require multiple patents, including both a utility and a design patent, or even multiple utility patents if, for instance, several functional improvements are made during the development of a process or product.
To protect your invention in other countries you will need to file an international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Though this does not provide you with an international patent it delays the expense of filing in other countries allowing you more time to access the feasibility of selling your invention abroad. Laws under the PCT allow you to file a single international patent application that will temporarily protect your invention in up to 142 countries for as long as 2½ years.
Patents can protect the inventor from losing millions of dollars, should an invention be successful. For this reason it is recommended that anyone seeking a patent secure the services of a registered patent attorney to conduct a search to see if someone has already patented your idea or invention.
To conduct a preliminary search yourself, you can visit the United States Patent & Trademark (USPTO) web site and conduct a search (http://www.uspto.gov/patft/). Enter a keyword to bring up results, then click on a patent to view it. By reading a few patents you can get an idea for how involved they are and why it’s a good idea to hire an attorney.
Contact us at Grant’s Law Firm in Glendale, Riverside, Indian Wells or Irvine. Learn how we use our dedication and experience when working with you during the patent registration and protection process. Call our Los Angeles County, Riverside County, or Orange County offices to speak with a trademark lawyer.