Below is an overview on patents. If you're already familiar with the basics, take a look at our more detailed Patent Guide.
A patent grants an exclusive right of its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented technology as defined in the claims of the patent for a period of time. In the United States, utility patents have a 20 year lifespan from the date of filing the patent application, while design patents remain in force for 14 years.
A patent does not give you the express right to sell or market your invention, but does give you the right to prevent others from doing so. In a sense, in exchange for disclosing your invention to the world for the common good, including the best mode of carrying out the invention, providing information on how to practice your invention, and so forth, governments of the world give you exclusive rights to your idea.
Today, communication is rapid and ideas are exchanged in a global marketplace rapidly. Every invention that you can think of (be it a machine, a toy, a food or even a process) needs a patent. If you don't get a patent, then any person, including those who will make your invention overseas and market it worldwide for a fraction of the price, can copy your idea and make money off of your hard work. With a patent, only you can reap the financial rewards and claim the idea to be your own.
Though in theory anyone can file their own patent, in reality a patent is a complex cross between a legal and technical document. Various language must exist in the patent in a proper manner so as to meet complex statutory requirements and overcome prior art. Further, the U.S. and foreign patent offices can be difficult to navigate and missing a deadline or filing a document incorrectly may result in unintentionally abandoning your patent. Even if your patent goes to issuance, you may, unfortunately, create litigation issues later that will negatively affect the value and scope of your patent.
Start with a Google search for your invention promotion company and follow this with a search of the U.S. Patent Office posted complaints. Also, take a look at our personal experience with an invention promoter. While these companies promise you the world, almost every one of them has complaints from people who have given thousands of dollars to them and have nothing to show for it.
They will provide you with the best sounding information, but don't be fooled. In accordance with the American Inventor's Protection Act of 1999, such companies are required to disclose to the FTC what percentage of their clients have made more money than they have paid. Upon looking up this information for one of my clients who first used such a company, they had a 0.00% success rate. That means, out of more than 6,000 clients, not one made money. For another client, the success rate was 0.23%. If you are thinking of using an invention promotion company, call me first and I'll be happy to look up their success rate.
I can refer you to industrial designers, marketers, and others who can help you.
Patenting your technology is one step in a large process that begins with designing and searching your idea, and continues with getting your product sold. Our law firm's role, as Patent Attorneys, is to draft and prosecute your patent application at the U.S. Patent Office, and if you so desire, to work with a foreign agent to file your application abroad.
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