Patent development for an invention or idea is assessed according to specific requirements established by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S Congress as well as patent offices located in other countries.

Overview of a Patent Application

When someone applies for a U.S. patent and it is approved, the inventor is granted a property right by the government acting for the Patent and Trademark Office. The "rights" the owner receives with the patent means others are excluded from using or making the invention or selling or offering to sell the invention in the United States. It also means no one can import the invention into the U.S.

Although having a patent is a step in the right direction for your invention, it does not guarantee success. Having a patent means your idea/invention is different than anything else patented. It does not mean it is superior nor does it guarantee that anyone will buy the invention or the products produced.

Several of the benefits of having a patent include:

  • Patents provide a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea/invention for a specified period of time.
  • If any infringes on your idea/invention, whether it's accidental or intentional, a patent provides the legal standing you need.
  • Well-known companies with solid reputations let their competitors know what areas to avoid.
  • If the patent is for intellectual property (the idea) and is to be sold, a patent adds a level of substance and value.
  • Even patents with "patent pending" status provide a warning to those who may be thinking along the same lines.

Patent Basics

Whenever a patent is issued, it is announced worldwide. This lets everyone know what it is you are working on. This can work for others who may have similar ideas that will be direct competition against your idea.

As soon as the application for a patent is made, the clock begins to tick as the legal protection of a patent is for a limited time. This is especially true of provisional patent applications. It is recommended to use the time wisely to your advantage. Keep in mind that not only does the world population know of your patented idea, but it also tells them the limits you are working with. This allows them to go to work to design around your patent.

One of the main reasons for applying for a patent is when you have an idea that someone else may discover. Another reason to use patents is to add substance and validity to the idea, invention, service, or product. If and when the intellectual property is for sale, patents are a positive method for assigning value.

If the idea or invention cannot be discovered by examining the product, it isn't necessary to get a patent. This type of situation is referred to as having "trade secrets." At the end of the day, if the idea is a good one and you announce it to the world, chances are someone will copy it or change the idea into something else. If you don't need a patent, it isn't necessary to get one.

Unless you plan to take the idea/invention/product to market, don't apply for a patent. There are exceptions to this, but under normal circumstances, getting a patent is a costly process and money is wasted especially when nothing is done with the patent once it's been approved.

Patent Types

There are two types of patents: design patents and utility patents. Design patents protect the artistic nature of a product. For example, a patent for decorative accessories for cars that involve artwork protect the actual design but does not protect any deviations of that design.

A utility patent generally covers the way something works. These patents cover not only the idea/invention, but also things such as variations and embodiments that are similar to the patented product. These patents are much more expensive.

Patent Requirements

To receive a patent, the invention must:

  • Have subject matter that is deemed patentable.
  • Be novel or new.
  • Be useful.
  • Have an inventive idea (one not obviously derived from a known invention).
  • Be described in sufficient detail that would enable another person to make and use the invention.
  • Be described in enough detail to show that the inventor is in possession of the invention.

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