As businesses compete in a global economy, they must often protect their innovations from competitors. Patents are an important legal tool for doing so. The great length of the patent process, however, can be intimidating. To further complicate matters, the length of a patent can vary because of jurisdictions, regulations, and other factors. This article will discuss the top five factors concerning how long patents last, with an eye to New York regulations.

Patent terms vary depending on the country in which a patent is sought and the individual regulations within that country. The United States Patent and Trademark Office section 1.291 outlines that all U.S. utility patents for any inventions and processes that first receive a patent application after June 8, 1995 will have a term of 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application.

The patent term begins as soon as any patent application is received, including provisional and non-provisional applications with the patent office. U.S. patent applications may experience backlog or other delays that can extend before the patent is officially issued. U.S. utility patents will always expire 20 years from their date of filing though, regardless of when the patent is actually issued.

Any subsequent patents for new versions of an invention will expire when the original patent did. Therefore, consider the effective date of the original patent carefully when determining how long any patent can protect an idea from competition.

A patent term may be extended if there is a delay in applications or completion. In the U.S., the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks may extend the life of a patent for one reason or another if they can pinpoint a cause that was caused by the patent office due to backlogs, etc.

Further, many states within the United States like New York, recognize special exemptions for patent terms. For example, New York’s General Business Law Section 020 provides for the registration of patents and other intellectual property law to be of concern within the state borders. This allows for the possibility of certain patent law timelines, exemptions, and extensions to be enforced.

Finally, if a patent is not enforced or is the subject of an infringement action, the patent expiry date may be impacted. A patent holder may be able to extend their patent term by invocating certain infringement defenses and countersuits. These situations can be complex and require special consideration of the laws at hand.

In summary, patents offer companies the ability to protect their products and inventions for a set amount of time. Therefore, understanding the technicalities of how long a patent may last is paramount to ensure the success of a company. U.S. utility patents last for a period of 20 years from the date of filing, and special considerations such as delays, exceptions, and legal action may affect the length of the patent term. For patenting in New York, it is especially important to understand the nuances of New York’s General Business Law.



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