A patent is a property right given by the U.S. government that allows a patent owner to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling an invention in the United States for a limited time.  The U.S. government awards patent so that inventors will reveal their inventions to the public.

Who can apply for a patent?

Only an inventor can apply for a patent in the United States.  The inventor does not need to be a U.S. citizen to file a patent application.  A company cannot file a patent application in its own name, but can own the rights in a patent application or issued patent.

What can be patented?

An inventor may obtain a utility patent for a new and useful:
• Process
• Machine
• Article of manufacture
• Composition of matter
• Or new and useful improvement of any of the above
In addition to utility patents, design patents protect the ornamental design of an article of manufacture and plant patents protect certain plant varieties.

What cannot be patented?

• Laws of nature;
• Physical phenomena;
• Abstract ideas;
• Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (however these can be Copyright protected;.
• Inventions that are not useful; and
• Inventions that are offensive to public morality

How long does it take for a patent application to be processed?

Currently, patent application are taking over 24 months to get through the patent office on average.

How long does patent protection last?

Utility and Plant Patents: For applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, utility and plant patents are in force from the issue date and usually extend until 20 years from the filing date as long as the proper maintenance fees are paid.  However, for patents in force, and applications pending, as of June 7, 1995, the patent remains in force from the date of issuance until either 20 years from the filing date or 17 years from the issue date, whichever is longer, as long as the proper maintenance fees are paid.
Design Patents: Design patents last 14 years from the issue date.

How can I protect my invention outside of the United States?

U.S. Patents essentially limit protection to the United States.  However, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international agreement for filing patent applications having effect in many different countries. Although the PCT system does not lead to “an international patent”, the system simplifies the process of filing patent applications, delays the expenses associated with applying for patent protection in foreign countries, and allows the inventor more time to assess the commercial viability of his/her invention.  Under the PCT, an inventor files a single international patent application in one language with one patent office to simultaneously seek protection for an invention in the PCT member countries.  After filing a PCT application, an applicant can then use the PCT system to pursue patent protection in specific countries.

Karish & Bjorgum attorneys have years of experience filing and obtaining patents for our clients and we can help you.