Invention Patenting in the United States – a quick overview

Invention patenting is securing a grant that gives you the property right over your invention.

A patent is the tool that you will use to protect your invention and which will offer you some monetary gain anytime any person wishes to use your invention. It is issued by the Patent and Trademark Office in whatever state the inventor applies from. This right is what protects the inventor's creativity, as it legally excludes other people from using, making, selling or even exporting the invention.

You can browse this site for detailed information on many of the topics discussed here, but to get a quick overview of the invention patenting process in the US, read on.

What Can Be Patented?

There are different laws that govern invention patenting. The laws determine and clearly indicate what qualifies to be patented.

If anyone seeks to get a patent for their invention or discovery, there are certain minimum requirements that should be met. The law clearly indicates that a person who qualifies for a patent should meet the following criteria:

a) Discovery or invention of any new and useful machine, process, manufacture or composition of matter.

b) Improvement or enhancement of any existing process, machine, composition or manufacture of matter.

However, the following cannot be patented by any individual:

a) Any invention that was known or used in the country to be patented or described in a written publication even in foreign countries.

b) Any invention that was patented or described in a printed document in a local or foreign country to be in public use or on sale for more than 12 months prior to the application for the patent.

What this means is that one cannot obtain a patent for any invention that is expressed in a printed document already known anywhere in the world. Also, if the invention had been in public use anywhere in the world or on sale any time before the application of the patent, one cannot obtain a patent.

Patent Application

Patent application is the process an inventor goes through to secure rights to protect his/her invention. The process of applying for a patent can be quite involving and needs a number of verification before the patent can be approved and issued.

In accordance with the patent law, only the inventor is allowed to apply for the patent for the invention. However, there are certain exceptions in relation to this law. The following points include the main exceptions:

a) In the event the inventor is dead, the application for the patent can be done by a legal representative or the executor of the inventor's estate.

b) If the inventor is insane, the application can be made by a guardian.

c) If the inventor refuses to apply for a patent or if the inventions are not found.

d) Any person who has some proprietary interest in the invention may apply on behalf of the non-signing inventor.

e) If the invention is made by two or more people, the application is done jointly.

f) If one person only contributes financially to the invention, they are not considered in the patent application.

There are different forms of patent applications that one can file for, depending on the nature of their invention. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the following are the types of patents one can file for as part of the invention patenting process:

Utility Patent Application

This is filed by anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter or makes new and useful improvements.

Design Patent Application

Any person who invents a new, original and decorative design for an article of manufacture can file for design patent.

Plant Patent Application

A patent of plant can be filed by any person who discovers or reproduces any distinctive and new selection of plant.

Means of Filing Patent Applications

Patent applications are usually filed at the Patent and Trademark office in your state. However, due to the advancement of technology, it is possible to apply for a patent electronically.

Different states will issue the website where the inventors can submit all the necessary documents to file for a patent application for their invention.

Attorneys and Agents

The process of invention patenting will need some basic understanding of the patent law in a particular state. In as much as one can apply and obtain a patent without any knowledge of the patent laws, it is usually advisable to use the services of a professional and skilled agent or attorney of the law. This is a good way to be sure that the patent offers all the necessary protection to the invention.

Violation of Patents

The unauthorized make, use, sale or offer to sell a patented invention is considered to be violation of the patents. The inventor who has a patent for the abused invention may sue the offender in the appropriate court in order to get justice served.

The issue of invention patenting is very broad and patent laws differ from one state to the other. But its legal and financial significance cannot be overemphasized. If you are an inventor and you take this lightly, you do so at your own detriment. So, if you have discovered or invented any useful utility, design or plant, and you want to bring it to the market, you should obtain a patent to protect it. This is often the only way you will be assured of being rewarded for your efforts. 

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