Many people ask, why is a patent important when they are considering obtaining one for their own product or service. A patent is deemed as being especially important because it grants an inventor exclusive rights to his or her invention. The patent itself is granted from the country in which the patent was filed.

With a patent, this means no other entity can make, use, or sell the same invention without direct permission from the inventor. A patent, however, does not grant the inventor rights regarding how the product can be used, and any prior patents may impact how the invention can be used.

For example, if a person has a patent on a "glass vessel to hold lemonade" and another person has a patent on a "glass handle for a glass pitcher," then the first person can prevent the second person from putting a handle on a lemonade pitcher and the second person can prevent the first person from being able to attach a handle to their own glass lemonade pitcher.

When a patent is issued, it is granted to the person who created the invention. It is not granted to a company. It is, however, not uncommon for inventors who are employees of a company to assign their inventions to the company.

How Long Does a Patent Last in the United States?

Certain requirements must be met in order to get a patent on a product. You can also get a patent on a process or a design. In most cases, a patent will last for 20 years. In the past, patents lasted only 17 years. As an inventor, it is important to get a patent because it will serve as a form of protection for your invention.

When Does a Person Need to File for a Patent?

To start the patent application process, you will need to acquire the proper paperwork and submit it to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You will need to start the process to obtain a patent if you:

  • Publish a description of the product, service, process, or design
  • Publicly disclose information about the product
  • Sell the product
  • Make it available for commercial use

In the United States, you must file the application for a patent within one year of:

  • The product's description being disclosed to the public
  • The product being put on sale
  • The product being made available for any type of commercial use

Can a Person File for a Patent in a Foreign Country?

If you have signed a confidentiality agreement and disclosed information relating to the invention, this does not qualify as a public disclosure. Because you have one year before you have to file for a patent, this gives you quite a bit of time to see how the market will react to your invention; this gives you time to determine whether or not you want to invest in the patent application. It is important to note, however, that in most other countries, you cannot file for a patent after the invention's information has been publicly disclosed.

Since other countries do not allow you to file a patent if the product's invention has already been disclosed to the public, it is generally best to file a patent for it in the United States before you disclose its information. In doing so, you protect your right to acquire a foreign patent. If you want a foreign patent, you must file for it within 12 months of having filed for the patent in the United States.

There are two treaties you can file under for a foreign patent:

  • European Patent Convention
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty

When you file under one of these treaties, you minimize the amount of money you have to spend on upfront filing fees. In the long run, though, you do end up having to pay all of the patent filing fees for each country you want to obtain a patent in.

When Are Patent Filings Made Public?

In the United States, patents are not published publicly until they have been filed for at least 18 months. Because of this, it becomes difficult for competitors to know what types of patents each other is working on.

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Patent?

It will likely take you anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete the entire patent filing process, and the involved expenses can be extremely costly. The overall cost is largely based on how well the inventor can describe the invention. More importantly, how well the inventor can convey this description in writing.

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