An Introduction to U.S. Patent Protection by Todd Chawansky, Associate Attorney
Think you have the next great idea? Have you improved an existing technology by making it easier or more efficient? If so, then you may be entitled to protect your idea by obtaining a patent. In the U.S., a patent is a way to prevent others from using, making, selling, offering to sell or importing your invention in the U.S for a limited time. You are granted this right for 20 years from the date you file your application.
To begin the process of obtaining a patent, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These applications are very technical and must meet several basic requirements. Among other things, the application includes a specification, which details in very clear, concise and exact terms how to make or use the invention so that someone else will be able to make or use your idea after reading it. An application must also include drawings to further define and illustrate the invention. Lastly, an application must include at least one claim. A claim is what features or elements the inventor regards as entitled to protection.
Once your application is complete, it is filed with the USPTO where it will be examined by someone with a background that matches the field of your invention. The examiner will search multiple databases to determine if your invention is new, useful and is not obvious in light of previous inventions. After the examiner has completed the search, the applicant has an opportunity to respond to any rejections
or reasons for not allowing the claims. If the examiner and the applicant agree that some or all of the claims are allowed, then the USPTO will grant you a patent protecting those claims.
The entire patent process, from filing an application to receiving an issued patent, varies in time according to several factors. The time a particular application will be pending at the USPTO depends on the complexity of the subject matter of the invention, the backlog and number of examiners at the USPTO, etc. Applicants will usually receive the first Office Action within 12-15 months and most patents will be granted between 2-6 years from the filing date.
Patent protection is a very valuable asset and provides the inventor with an enforceable right for a relatively long period of time. The process is very technical and failing to take the proper precautions can result in a potentially lucrative idea being deprived of some, if not all, of its protection. Consulting with a registered patent attorney or agent before starting the application process is recommended to give you the best chance of receiving a quality patent.
The USPTO has announced its first ever satellite office will be opening in Detroit during the summer of 2012. The high number of engineers and research professionals in the area played a part in the decision to bring the office to Detroit and it is certainly a welcomed addition to Southeastern Michigan.
If you have any questions about patents or would like to know if you are entitled to patent protection, please contact Todd Chawansky or any other attorney at the offices of Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C.