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Patenting Inventions

What is a Patent?
Patents for inventions are the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office of a nation. In the United States, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed or in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.

The right conferred by the patent grant is generally a right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the inventions. What is granted is not the right to make, sell or import but the right to exclude others from making, selling or importing the inventions.

What Can Be Patented
The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent for an invention may be obtained. Any person who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.

In order for an invention to be patentable it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if: (a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent (b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, in public use or on sale in this country more than one year prior to the application for patent.

If the invention had been described in a printed publication anywhere in the world, if it has been in public use or on sale in this country before the date that the applicant made his/her invention, a patent cannot be obtained. If the invention had been described in a printed publication anywhere, has been in public use or on sale in this country more than one year before the date on which an application for patent  is filed in this country, a patent cannot be obtained.

In this connection it is immaterial when the inventions had been made, whether the printed publication or public use was by the inventor himself/herself or by someone else. If the inventor describes the invention in a printed publication, uses the inventions publicly or places it on sale, he/she must apply for a patent before one year has gone by.  Otherwise any right to a patent for an invention will be lost. The inventor must file on the date of public use or disclosure in order to preserve patent rights in many foreign countries.

Attorneys and Agents
The preparation of an application for patent for an invention is an undertaking requiring the knowledge of patent law and rules as well as knowledge of the scientific or technical matters involved in the particular inventions. While a patent for an invention may be obtained in many cases by persons not skilled in patent law and rules, there would be no assurance that the patents would adequately protect the particular inventions.

Who May Apply For A Patent
According to the law only the inventor may apply for a patent for his or her invention, with certain exceptions. If the inventor is dead the application may be made by legal representatives, the administrator or executor of the estate. If the inventor is insane the application for patent for an invention may be made by a guardian. If an inventor refuses to apply for a patent for his or her inventions or cannot be found, a joint inventor or if there is no joint inventor available, a person having a proprietary interest in the inventions may apply on behalf of the non-signing inventor. If two or more persons make an invention jointly, they apply for a patent as joint inventors. A person who makes only a financial contribution for the inventions is not a joint inventor and cannot be joined in the application as an inventor.

Provisional Application for a Patent
Since June 8, 1995, the USPTO has offered inventors the option of filing a provisional application for patent for an invention which was designed to provide a lower cost first patent filing in the United States and to give U.S. applicants parity with foreign applicants. Claims and oath or declaration are not required for a provisional application. Provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the inventions. The filing date of a provisional application is the date on which a written description of the invention, drawings if necessary, and the name of the inventor(s) are received in the USPTO.

Assignments and Licenses
A patent for an invention is personal property and may be sold to others or mortgaged. It may be bequeathed by a will, and it may pass to the heirs of a deceased patentee. The patent law provides for the transfer or sale of patents for inventions or of an application for patent, by an instrument in writing. Such an instrument is referred to as an assignment and may transfer the entire interest in the patent for an invention. The assignee, when the patent is assigned to him or her, becomes the owner of the patent for an invention and has the same rights that the original patentee had.

Joint Ownership
A patent may be owned jointly by two or more persons as in the case of a patent granted to joint inventors or in the case of the assignment of a part interest in patents for inventions. Any joint owner of a patent may make, sell and import the invention for his or her own profit provided they do not infringe another’s rights and may sell the interest or any part of it or grant licenses to others unless the joint owners have made a contract governing their relation to each other. The owner of a patent for an invention may grant licenses to others for the inventions. Since the patentee has the right to exclude others from making, selling or importing the invention, no one else may do any of these things without his/her permission.

Infringement of Patents
Infringement of a patent consists of the unauthorized making, using, offering for sale or selling any patented invention within the United States or U.S. Territories or importing into the United States of any patented inventions during the term of the patents. If a patent for an invention is infringed, the patentee may sue for relief in the appropriate federal court.

Treaties and Foreign Patents
The laws of many countries differ in various respects from the patent law of the United States. In most countries, publication of the invention before the date of the application will bar the right to a patent. In most countries maintenance fees are required. Most countries require that the patented inventions must be manufactured in that country after a certain period, usually three years.

There is a treaty relating to patents which is adhered to by 140 countries including the United States and is known as the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. It provides that each country guarantees to the citizens of the other countries the same rights in patent for an invention and trademark matters that it gives to its own citizens. The treaty also provides for the right of priority in the case of patents, trademarks and industrial designs.

This right means that on the basis of a regular first patent application for an invention filed in one of the member countries, the applicant may, within a certain period of time apply for protection in all the other member countries. The Patent Cooperation Treaty  facilitates the filing of applications for patents on the same inventions in member countries by providing, among other things, for centralized filing procedures and a standardized application format.

The timely filing of an international patent application for an invention affords applicants a filing date in each country which is designated in the application and provides (1) a search of the invention and (2) a later time period within which the national applications for patent must be filed.

Under U.S. law it is necessary, in the case of inventions made in the United States, to obtain a license from the Director of the USPTO before applying for a patent in a foreign country. The filing of a patent application for an invention constitutes the request for a license and the granting or denial of such request is indicated in the filing receipt mailed to each applicant.  After six months from the U.S. filing, a license is not required unless the invention had been ordered to be kept secret. If the inventions had been ordered to be kept secret, the consent to the filing abroad must be obtained from the Director of the USPTO during the period the order of secrecy is in effect.

Foreign Applicants for U.S. Patents
The patent laws of the United States make no discrimination with respect to the citizenship of the inventor. Any inventor, regardless of his/her citizenship, may apply for a patent for an invention on the same basis as a U.S. citizen. There are, however, a number of particular points of special interest to applicants located in foreign countries.

No U.S. patent can be obtained if the inventions had been patented abroad before applying in the United States by the inventor or his/her legal representatives or if a foreign application was filed more than 12 months before filing in the United States. Six months are allowed in the case of a design patent.

A patent application for an invention filed in the United States by any person who has previously regularly filed an application for a patent for the same invention in a foreign country which affords similar privileges to citizens of the United States shall have the same force and effect for the purpose of overcoming intervening acts of others as if filed in the United States.

 
 
 
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