What Are Interesting Facts About Patents?

Interesting facts about patents abound but while many people are familiar with the term, they do not know what a patent is and why someone needs it. Interesting facts cover a variety of issues such as why you should hire a patent attorney and when a patent expires. 


Q. How long have patents been in existence?

A. Patents date back to the ancient Greeks. In 1474, the first patent law was put into effect in the Venetian Republic. 

Q. When was the first U.S. patent issued?

A. The first U.S. patent was assigned to Joseph Winslow in 1633.

Q. I have an invention, but some might feel it's not useful or silly. Can I still get a patent?

A. Since patents have been issued, there have been inventions that are considered silly such as a bicycle with its own sail, a face-mask that prohibits the wearer from eating, even a shirt for gerbils. None of these inventions were disqualified for a patent. 

Q. I have an interesting invention for that could be used by major retailers. Should I approach the company directly?

A. Probably not. An example of what can happen dates to 1963 when a big box department store was approached by an individual offering the patent for their invention. The company rejected the invention noting it had no value but paid the individual $10,000 for the research. The company then proceeded to manufacture the invention that ultimately earned the business over $40 million in sales. 

Q. Is the polio vaccine patented?

A. No. Jonas Salk did not patent the vaccine. It's estimated the worth of the vaccine would have netted Salk around $7 billion. 

Q. What about insulin? Was that patented?

A. No. The researchers involved in discovering insulin made the decision not to apply for a patent. They did this so the treatment of diabetes would remain inexpensive. 

Q. Did Benjamin Franklin patent his many inventions?

A. No. He felt it was important to give back to those whose inventions he had had access to and that anything he invented should be shared with the world.

Q. I realize there are a lot of questionable patents that make no sense. Is there one that stands out?

A. Yes. One that didn't stand a chance was when the Halliburton Company attempted to get a patent for patenting. 

Pros of Patents

Among the interesting patent facts throughout history, it is clear there are pros and cons when considering a patent for your invention. 

  • A patent protects the inventor's rights to the invention preventing anyone else from patenting the same invention.
  • Patents are easily searched online free of charge.
  • Hiring a patent attorney assures you that the person has significant knowledge, experience, and an undergraduate degree in a selected field of science. 
  • As global competition in the marketplace increases worldwide, the U.S. has ranked high in the number of patents granted annually. 
  • A study by Brookings noted a patent can average $500,000, or more, for large companies and an estimated $1 million for lesser known companies. 

Cons of Patents

  • Although searching for the availability of a patent for an invention is easy to do, there is no guarantee it will be available when you decide to apply. This is due to a lengthy wait for application approval. 
  • An application for a patent can be in pending status for approximately three years. 
  • Sending a letter of intent to the patent office to alert the office of the invention to protect it has no effect. A letter will not protect an invention from being patented by someone else. 
  • A patent is no guarantee an invention is viable or valuable.
  • Similar names can be a reason to reject a patent application. For example, the phrase "Eat More Kale" was denied by the patent office because of its similarity to "Eat More Chickin" which is a nationwide phrase used in marketing by Chick-Fil-A.

Deadline for Patents

Once filed, a patent is valid for 20 years. 

Throughout the term of the patent at pre-determined intervals, the applicant is responsible for paying maintenance fees to keep the patent active. If not paid, is patent is deemed abandoned. 

If you need help with a patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.