A patent provides exclusive rights to the inventor of an invention to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission. The exclusive rights are limited to twenty years from the filing date of the patent application. In exchange for the exclusive rights of a patent, the inventor provides public disclosure of an invention that has usefulness, has novelty, and is inventive (or not obvious). Typically, patents provide the strongest type of intellectual property protection, but have the highest standards for the individual to meet. In the United States, a patent application is submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Office then examines the patent application to ensure that the invention meets the requirements for usefulness, novelty, and nonobviousness. If the invention meets these standards, then the Office will grant a patent.
Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as “patents for invention”.
Issued for a new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture, it permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fourteen years from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Please note that the fourteen year term of a design patent is subject to change in the near future.
Trade secrets are a way that a company can secure its intellectual property without filing a patent application. A trade secret is valuable secret information that provides the company with a competitive advantage. This valuable information is not known outside the company. One of the key points of trade secret law is that the owner of the trade secret must be very diligent in maintaining the trade secret as a secret. It is common for trade secret owners to keep the secret under lock and key, limit access to the trade secret to a few key individuals, have employees execute nondisclosure agreements and protect the facility housing the trade secret with security devices. One of the fundamental differences between a trade secret and a patent is that after the term of the patent expires and the invention covered by the patent is deemed to be dedicated to the public. In contrast, a trade secret lasts indefinitely as long as no one discovers the secret.
Licensing agreements are used to fully exploit the potential of your intellectual property by granting certain rights to another party in exchange for fees or royalties. Licensing agreements may be used in connection with patents, trademark, and copyrights.
Patent infringement is the act of making, using, selling, or offering to sell a patented invention, or importing into the United States a product covered by a claim of a patent without the permission of the patent owner. Contact Del Vecchio & Stadler LLP to learn more about patent services.