(1) Prompt Patent Filing Is a Necessity
Just as a deed to land should be filed as quickly as possible, in general, a patent application should also be filed as quickly as possible to claim an invention before someone else claims it. Alexander Graham Bell’s race with Elisha Gray to file an extremely valuable telephone patent application is still a very relevant lesson for every inventor to remember.
(2) Patent Enforcement Begins on Issue
An issued (formally granted and published) patent provides a time-limited monopoly. For U. S. utility patents (the most common type), the monopoly ends 20 years after the filing date, or longer (if the Patent Office delays the patent process beyond three years). There are exceptions for unusual situations. For U. S. design patents, the monopoly ends 14 years after the issue date. Design patents concern ornamental designs without a utilitarian function (but they can frequently be quite valuable).
(3) What is Patentable?
Patentable inventions are: novel, useful, and non-obvious (to another person with ordinary skill in the field of art, normally having a number of years of education and experience).
(4) Novel Inventions (other countries have stricter requirements than the U.S.)
Novel means that before the date of invention the invention is:
· not known or used by others in this country,
· not sold or offered for sale in the U. S.,
· not described in a U. S. or international patent filed by another before the date of invention, and
· not disclosed in a publication by another anywhere in the world on the date of invention.
(5) What Types of Inventions Can Be Patented?
The best business opportunities at this time include wireless, medical technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Almost any invention in these areas can be protected by U.S. patent applications, if the invention is in one of these categories:
· machines (e.g., devices),
· articles of manufacture (e.g., products such as medical tools),
· compositions (e.g., products made by a process, such as metal alloys or drugs),
· processes (e.g., methods for making a product, methods for using a product),
· and processes or methods in general (even new methods for conducting business, or a new use for a known process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or material).
(6) Patent Infringement Penalties
If the patent owner does not receive payment of royalties, penalties can potentially include:
· actual damages with costs and interest, but no less than a reasonable royalty,
· recall and destruction of all infringing products (possibly at great cost),
· shut-down of a factory, and triple damages (for willful infringement).