Patents have been around for hundred of years, and there is a basic overview of patents at the US Patent and Trademark office (uspto.gov).
Patents have been around since the early 1600’s and were implemented as a part of a law that prevented a monopoly from occurring. At the time there was an exception which was called a monopoly grant. Such a grant was given under special circumstances for a period of 20 years. This grant only pertained to new products introduced and to people who would take the business risk in marketing these new products. Of course, certain restrictions applied, and the source of the product had to be disclosed to the competition, so others could market as soon as this 20 year patent disappeared. This basic concept of the Patent is very similar today. A US utility patent functions the same way it did over three hundred and fifty years ago. The patent disallows anyone else from practicing an invention for a period of 21 years, and afterward anyone can use the invention. Even today, Patents are not renewable. In exchange for the patent the inventor has to give out the information on the invention, so that anyone else can use the idea (after the 21 year period). However, if the inventor cannot or has not developed the needed ‘how to’ instructions, then the product cannot be patented.
Do I Have to Have the Patent?
You can still sell your product and you are not required to have a patent to sell it, however the patent is a form of ‘protection.’ It keeps other people from making it, selling it, or using it without your giving your explicit permission. For instance, if you create an improvement on an existing product, you may have to get permission from the earlier inventor before being permitted to market your new product.
What Items are Patentable?
A utility patent is given to a new process, item that is manufactured or made, or machine. In the United States, anyone can solicit an application for this type of patent, or even an application for a plant or design patent, however most people refer to a utility patent when speaking of patents.
What types of items and how innovative do they have to be to be patentable?
There are actually two ways to patent a new idea. The first requires that the product be new, but this definition is new and in a very narrow category. If the invention is new and there are no earlier patents, or references to the invention, then it can be patented.
The second type of patent requires that if a product is patented that the invention be significantly improved. This requires that the invention be considered as a whole and that the original invention also be considered. This revision is often not obvious to a person that has ordinary technical skill.
The European Patent office this same rule applies to small improvements on an existing patent applies. However, both of these approaches are somewhat ambiguous leaving room for argument by new inventors. The ambiguity lies in when the invention was made and how large the changes have to be before they are considered real improvements.
Will a Patent Protect Me?
The amount of protection a patent offers is basic. Often a search for new patent can help a person determine whether asking for a patent is a worthy endeavor. However, the way a patent application is made also gives the product certain protection, or limits that protection. An attorney should be the one to write the patent agreement and the inventor should ask the attorney about methods of using the invention or carrying out so that the application can be written accordingly.
The part that is protected by the patent is what is described in the application or clames. These should be written in a truly bind able way so that no one can work around it.
‘Patent pending’ – An Explanation
When an inventor states ‘patent pending’ on his product, it refers to the fact that an application in the patent office has been made. Patents in the United States are not binding until the patent application has been reviewed and the patent has actually been issued. However, a ‘patent pending’ statement can discourage the competition and inform them that they may lose money if the patent is issued.