The life of a patent is full of questions and concerns, especially when you’re wondering, “How long does a patent last?” As an inventor, protecting your work with a patent can seem daunting and complex, leading to many questions around usage rights, licensing, and ultimately, how long your patent will last and can be used.

For those of us based in Los Angeles, the need to understand the legal regulations surrounding patents can become even more pressing. It pays to have an attorney who’s familiar with the local jurisdiction when it comes to filing, protecting, and using patents legally and effectively. Here, we tackle the question of how long a patent lasts in Los Angeles, and all the different considerations and complexities that come with it.

How long are patents valid for?

A U.S. patent expires after 20 years from the date of filing the patent. This is one of the key determinants of how long a patent lasts in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the U.S. However, that’s usually not the only consideration when it comes to the life of a patent. Patent maintenance fees also have to be taken into account.

Patent maintenance fees, formerly known as renewal fees, are paid to keep your patent in force beyond its initial 20 year term, usually at three different points in the patent’s life. Failure to pay these fees will result in the patent expiring earlier than its 20 year timeline. The different points at which these fees must be paid are at 3 ½, 7 ½, and 11 ½ years from the date of filing your original patent application.

Are there any other complexities?

Knowing the fee payment timeline and expiry standard is one important part of understanding the life of a patent, but there are some other complexities that can affect the duration of the patent beyond the base 20 year timeline.

One such example is delayed issuance, or the timeline from payment of the patent to the actual legal date of issue. This can occur if the patent application encounters objections or is not successfully processed within 18 months of its date of filing.

In such cases, the time to issue a patent can be greatly increased, thus leading to a shorter effective life of the patent. Making sure you have all the prerequisites in place and all the paperwork ready for review can help avoid any delays in the issuing of the patent, thus giving it a better chance of lasting the full 20 years.

What do I do when a patent expires?

If a patent has come to the natural end of its 20 year term, or it is shortened because of a failure to pay maintenance fees, the patent’s legal protection is void. As a patent owner, in many cases it is possible to continue to market and manufacture the invention without a patent, but without the patent legal protection, you will be at a greater risk of infringement from competitors.

The actual life of a patent in Los Angeles is based on several factors. It is important to have a qualified attorney to help weigh in on the nuances of different timelines, laws, and related topics surrounding patent protection. With the right counsel and proper usage of a patent, their life and protection can be extended and used to the fullest.



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