You’ve come up with a great idea for a new, original invention. How do you make sure someone else doesn’t steal your idea and capture the market? You get a patent.
Know the Patent Process
Inventors seek patents to protect original inventions, processes and designs. A patent is a grant made by the U.S. government that gives the inventor the exclusive right to make, use and sell an invention for a set period of time, usually 20 years. It gives the inventor the right to prevent others from using, making and selling the invention without permission.
Patents are issued after completion of the application process established by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Before a patent is issued, a patent examiner will search to see if the same or similar technology has already been claimed in a patent or publicly disclosed.
American Invents Act Affects Your Product
The America Invents Act was passed in 2011 and went into effect in March 2013. It is the most comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. patent system in more than 60 years. A person who is filing for a patent should be aware of these changes:
First to File
The AIA converts the U.S. patent model to a first-to-file system. Under the new system, patent rights to a patentable invention are awarded to the inventor with the earliest effective filing date rather than (under the previous law) the inventor who first conceived the invention and could document it.
The grace period for public disclosure will remain. A U.S. inventor can publicly disclose an invention and still file a patent application within one year of that public disclosure.
Prior Art and Other Changes
Under the AIA, that “state of the art” against which inventiveness is judged will be expanded geographically (to include foreign sale or a foreign-originated patent application) and in time (anything prior to your filing date counts and foreign-originated applications count even earlier).
Under the AIA, inventors can pay extra to have their applications expedited. For a $4,800 fee, the entire patent examination should take no more than a year instead of the usual three years.
In the new post-grant review process, anyone can challenge a patent for nine months after it is granted. This cannot be done anonymously. The case goes before a patent examiner, not a court.
Save Patent Costs
Patent applicants with fewer than 500 employees, no more than four previously filed patent applications, and gross income in the most recent calendar year of no more than three times the median household income are eligible for “micro-entity” status, under the new law.
Micro-entity applicants are charged just 25 percent of the usual fees for a patent application.
E-filing saves an additional $400.
Call an Intellectual Property Lawyer
The law surrounding obtaining and protecting patents is extremely complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an intellectual property lawyer.