U.S. Patents Office

The U.S. patents office was established by Congress in 1790, which laid the foundation for the system that is used today. In 1802, it was officially categorized under the Department of State. As its full name implies, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issues patents and trademarks on behalf of the government. Today, however, the USPTO falls under the Department of Commerce. Its basic role has remained the same: to promote science and the arts by helping inventors secure exclusive rights to their own inventions. The website has patent information dating back to 1790, which is available for review through the search databases.

What Does the USPTO Do?

  • Examine and review patent applications
  • Grant patents
  • Publish previously issued patents, usually those filed on or about November 29, 2000
  • Publications and helpful articles relating to the patent application process
  • Maintains a search database for those needing to search for previously issued patents
  • Supplies copies of records and other paperwork when appropriate
  • The USPTO does not have any jurisdiction or the ability to answer legal questions pertaining to patent infringement or patent enforcement
  • The USPTO database contains information on patent numbers, the type of patent classification, the name of the person with the patent, the date of patent protection, and the place in which it was patented.
  • The USPTO also has images of the patent documentation where appropriate. Therefore, someone searching the database can obtain paperwork regarding a previously issued patent.
  • The USPTO has a separate database that contains patents granted between 1790 and1909.

Cannabis Patents

The cannabis industry faces many ongoing challenges when obtaining patent protection. Due to the fact that it is illegal at the federal level, many inventors in a variety of states face backlash when trying to obtain patent protection. However, since 1942, the USPTO has in fact been issuing cannabis-type patents. Moreover, it appears as though the federal view of cannabis has very little effect on the outcome of such patent applications. Since 1942, roughly 1,500 cannabis patent applications were filed. Of those, roughly 750 of those have been filed in the past 25 years. Half of those applications were actually approved.

A majority of the patents being filed in this industry are those small to mid-sized companies operating in this space, particularly in the biological areas for cannabis use in certain foods, beverages, and medications.

Also included in this industry are those companies working on cannabis drug formulas, methods of preparation, chemical compounds, and other methods of treating certain diseases with cannabinoids and other materials stemming from the plant itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my patent application is denied? Can I file an appeal?

Yes, you can appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences if your patent application was denied.

How many employees work for the USPTO?

The USPTO has more than 6,500 employees. Roughly 50% of these employees are patent examiners while the others are specialized in technical and legal aspects of the patent process.

How many patent applications are received throughout the year?

More than 350,000/year patent applications are sent in. Clearly there is a very high ongoing demand for patent protection based on these numbers.

Who will review my patent application?

The job of examining all applications that come in is divided amongst a number of departments called technology centers, which have the appropriate jurisdiction over certain types of patent applications. Further, those applications are then divided up within each group, which is staffed by patent examiners and other support personnel. Some employees within each group have an area of expertise, i.e. utility or design patents, chemical-related patents, etc.

What happens if the USPTO determines that there is another similar invention out there that is also seeking patent protection?

If this is the case, then patent examiners will initiate a proceeding, also called an interference, to identify who the initial inventor of that product was.

If you need help with submitting information to the U.S. Patent Office or learning how to utilize the USPTO website while applying for patent protection, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.