Patents: Meaning, Types, Patent Application & Infringement
A patent is a government contract granting inventors exclusivity in exchange for disclosing their invention. There are utility, design, and plant patents with specific requirements. To minimize patent risks, seek legal counsel, evaluate competitors, mark products, and consider licensing.
Table of Contents
What is a Patent?
A patent is a contract between the government and an inventor. In exchange for disclosure of the invention, the government grants the inventor exclusivity regarding the invention for a specified amount of time.
At the end of the time, the government publishes the invention, and it becomes part of the public domain.
As part of the public domain, however, there is the assumption that the disclosure will stimulate ideas and perhaps even the development of an even better product that could replace the original.
Types of Patents
Patents are of three types: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
Utility patents grant the owner protection against anyone else making, using, and/or selling the identified invention and generally reflect the protection of new, useful, and unobvious processes such as film developing; machines such as photocopiers; compositions of matter such as chemical compounds or mixtures of ingredients; and articles of manufacture such as the toothpaste pump.
A utility patent has a term of years, beginning on the date the Patent and Trademark Office issues it.
Design patents cover new, original, ornamental, and unobvious designs for articles of manufacture. A design patent reflects the appearance of an object.
These patents are granted for a 14-year term and provide the inventor with a negative right, excluding others from making, using, or selling an article having the ornamental appearance given in the drawings included in the patent.
Plant patents are used for new varieties of plants and have a term of 17 years. International patents are now regulated by the World Trade Organization.
The patent application must contain a complete history and description of the invention, as well as claims for its usefulness.
In general, the application will be divided into the following sections:
This section should contain the background and advantages of the invention and the nature of the problems that it overcomes. It should clearly state how the invention differs from existing offerings.
Description of the invention
Next, the application should contain a brief description of the drawings that accompany it. These drawings must comply with official requirements. This may include engineering specifications, materials, components, and so on, which are vital to the actual making of the invention.
This is probably the most difficult section of the application to prepare since claims are the criteria by which any infringements will be determined. They serve to specify what the entrepreneur is trying to patent.
The application should contain a declaration or oath that is signed by the inventor or inventors. This form will be supplied by the advocate.
This will create a legal obligation. So, it should be avoided. The following checklist would help to minimize patent risks:
- Seek a patent advocate who has expertise in your product line.
- The entrepreneur should consider a design patent to protect the product design or product look.
- Before making an external disclosure of an invention at conferences or to the media, or before setting up a website, the entrepreneur should seek legal counsel since this external disclosure may negate a subsequent patent application.
- Evaluate competitor patents to gain insight as to what they may be developing.
- If you think your product infringes on the patent of another firm, seek legal counsel.
- Verify that all employment contracts with individuals who may contribute new products have clauses assigning those inventions or new products to the venture.
- Be sure to properly mark all products granted a patent. Not having products marked could result in loss or damages in a patent suit.
- Consider licensing your patents. This can enhance the investment in a patent by creating new market opportunities and can increase long-term revenues.
Patents give inventors special rights to their inventions. This helps encourage innovation and progress in society. When inventors have these rights, they are more likely to share their inventions with the public. This helps everyone by encouraging better products to be created.