Please find below numerous important links to useful resources. Using these links, you may search for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Additionally, these links provide information about the process you need to go through in order to obtain a patent, trademark or copyright. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us for a free consultation.
Patent Basics FAQ
A patent is a property right from the United States Government that essentially confers a 20-year monopoly to the owner. A patent owner can exclude any other person or company from the manufacture, use, sale or import into the United States of infringing technology.
Patents may be granted for articles of manufacture, designs on articles of manufacture, living organisms, plants, chemical compositions, nonobvious methods of using existing inventions, and on methods of doing business which may include the use of software. However, inventors must prove that they have a new, useful & nonobvious invention to receive a patent. An inventor must provide an “enabling” description of the invention, meaning that the inventor must thoroughly describe and teach how the invention works.
Utility patents are available for articles of manufacture and protect function. These patents cover processes, machines, manufactured items, and compositions of matter. The utility patents last 20 years from the filing date. Design patents protect the overall appearance of an invention and are for “ornamental” designs for articles of manufacture. A design patent lasts 14 years from the date it issues.
A patent search and patentability opinion can help an inventor decide whether to file for a patent. The patent process can be expensive, therefore, it makes sense to invest the time to discover whether the invention has been made before and whether the scope of protection available is worthwhile. Patent searches are best performed by patent attorneys or agents who handle the matters directly or who contract locals at the PTO. There are more than 7,000,000 patents, so no search can predict 100% accuracy, but a search should endeavor to identify prior patents that would either prevent you from getting a patent or unduly narrow the scope of available protection. In addition to helping to determine whether an invention is patentable, a good search can help your patent attorney in crafting claims, and describing why your invention is an improvement over the prior technologies.
In the United States, there is a 12-month grace period to file for a patent application after the invention is made known in a publication, used in public, or offered for sale. Failing to file an application inside this grace period will cause a loss of any rights to a patent. However, many foreign countries do not have such grace periods. Therefore, if foreign filings are expected, to preserve those rights, a U.S. patent application should be filed prior to public use or disclosure of the invention.
An issued patent grants an inventor the exclusive right to the claimed invention of their patent. This grants the patent owner to exclusively manufacture, sell and use the technology for selling products directly to the public. Other patent owners may choose to license the patent for a royalty while some patent holders may just sell their patent outright based on the patent’s fair market value.
A utility patent lasts 20 years from the filing date. A design patent lasts 14 years from issuance.
To be an “inventor” for the patent office, a person must materially contribute to at least one of the claims of the patent. A person who merely helps an inventor reduce his or her invention to practice does not become an inventor. If an inventor hires an engineer or a person with technical expertise to help build the invention or “reduce the invention to practice” without being an inventor, he or she should have a qualified attorney draft a contract setting forth confidentiality and nondisclosure clauses, as well as a recitation that the services are merely to reduce the invention to practice and not to invent. To the extent any inventing should occur, precautionary assignments of inventive rights should be considered.
Trademark Basics FAQ
A trademark is any word, name, symbol or logo used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another. A trademark identifies the source of a particular good. Rolex® would be an example of a trademark for a watch.
When people say “you need to Trademark,” they generally mean you need to file a Trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While the mere use of the word or logo without registration is enough to create common law trademark ownership rights, those rights only extend to the geographical area where the mark is being used. A Federal Trademark registration is much stronger protection because it provides national protection.
Legally, a Service Mark is a Trademark, however, Service Marks relate to services, while Trademarks can relate to either goods or services.
TM SYMBOL: Parties claiming rights to particular trademarks may use the symbol TM next to their marks at any time – even prior to filing a trademark application. SM SYMBOL: A party claiming such right to a Service Mark may similarly use either the TM or the SM symbol. Registration is not necessary in order to use these particular symbols. THE ® SYMBOL: The ® symbol indicates that the trademark is a valid U.S. federally registered trademark. It is generally not permissible to use the ® symbol in the U.S. unless you have a valid U.S. federally registered trademark. Additionally, merely filing a trademark application is not enough, one must wait until the trademark successfully completes the entire registration process before using the ® symbol.
A copyright is a legal right to the original expression of an idea (not the idea), which expression has been reduced to a tangible medium, i.e., a book, song, sound recording, website, architectural work, movie, sculpture or computer program.