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For many, the world of patents is a scary and confusing place. For starters, a patent is a right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention or copying a design. The category of inventions that can be patented includes processes and methods, machines, manufactured items, and compositions (such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals). In order to be patentable, the invention must also be novel, useful, and cannot be obvious. Patents can make or break a company. With the stakes that high, it is particularly important to work with an expert. One of Legal Hero’s experienced patent lawyers can guide you through the process and maximize your chances for a successful outcome.

Common questions about patents

Can I apply for a patent myself?

While there is no requirement that you use a lawyer to prepare and file a patent application, inventors that submit their own applications have a much lower rate of success.

How long does a patent last?

A patent is valid for a period of 14-20 years depending on the type of patent.

How long does it take for a patent to be issued?

The USPTO's response time depends on the type of invention you're trying to protect. An average wait is roughly 3 years, but the process often takes much longer. But don't worry, if your application is approved, the patent will be effective as of the date of the application.

What are the types of patents and patent applications?

The two most common types of patents are utility patents and design patents:

  • Utility patents: these patents are granted for the invention of processes and methods, machines, manufactured items, and compositions or an improvement of any of those things. Software patents also fall within this category. Utility patents are valid for 20 years from the date of the initial patent application.

  • Design patents: these patents are granted for an original ornamental design for a functional item. A well-known example is the curved bottle used by Coca-Cola. Design patents are valid for 14 years from the date the patent is granted.

In the U.S., there are two types of applications for utility patents: provisional patent applications and non-provisional patent applications.

  • Provisional patent applications: these applications are not examined by the USPTO and do not result in a patent being issued. Provisional patents are only available for utility patents (and not for design patents) They buy you time and let you claim a spot in line with a priority filing date, which is the date of the provisional application.You then have one year to decide whether to apply for a utility patent. When you file a provisional patent application, you are able to label your invention as “patent pending” and face fewer legal requirements and lower filing fees.

  • Non-provisional patent applications: these are the standard applications to obtain protection for a design or utility patent. The application requires a more detailed description of the invention and is more time-consuming to prepare and file than a provisional application.

Ready to move forward with a patent application? Or would you like to speak with an experienced patent attorney to explore your options?

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What are patent searches and why do they matter?

Before starting a patent application, it often makes sense to run a patent search. By identifying potential roadblocks to obtaining a patent, a patent search can sometimes save you the time and expense of preparing an application only to have it rejected by the USPTO. The two most common types are novelty searches (sometimes referred to as patentability searches) and clearance searches (sometimes referred to as infringement searches):

  • Novelty searches: these searches determine whether an invention is new and novel, which is one of the requirements to be eligible for patent protection.

  • Clearance searches: these searches determine whether your invention or process infringe upon any existing patents, which would affect the chances that your patent application would be accepted.

An experienced patent lawyer can help you figure out a strategy for patent searching that makes sense for your invention.

Ready to start a patent search? Or would you like to speak with an experienced patent attorney to explore your options?

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