US Patent Protection. The framers of the Constitution of the United States of America gave Congress the power: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. (US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.) One exercise of this power resulted in US patent law, which gives an inventor the opportunity to apply for a patent which, if granted, would give the inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, offering to sell or selling the patented invention in the United States for a certain number of years, depending on the type of patent. US Patents fall into three different categories: utility, plant and design. Each of these is discussed more fully under the links below. The attorneys at Sierra IP Law, PC have the expertise and tools to assist clients in pursuing all three types of US patents.
It is possible for anyone to prepare and file a US patent application on their own, just as it is possible for anyone to prepare and file a lawsuit on their own. However, because lawsuits can be difficult and complicated, clients ordinarily engage an attorney to represent, assist and guide them through the litigation process. Similarly, because the process for applying for US patent protection is complicated and ever changing, a registered patent attorney should be consulted at the earliest possible opportunity to represent, assist and guide the applicant through the process.
Foreign Patent Protection. Because patent protection beyond the United States is frequently important to its clients, Sierra IP Law, PC has established connections with patent law firms in many foreign countries, and can act as a liaison between its clients and these law firms to assist its clients in pursuing foreign patent protection.
Enforcement. If patent rights are infringed, the attorneys at Sierra IP Law, PC have the experience and expertise to enforce those rights or defend against them, through federal court litigation if necessary, on behalf of their clients.
Licensing. The attorneys at Sierra IP Law, PC also have experience and expertise in transferring or receiving US patent rights from one party to another, in whole or in part, whether by way of sale, license, assignment or otherwise.
When someone refers to a patent on an invention, they are usually talking about a “utility” patent – the most common type of US patent – which provides protection for the functional aspects of an invention. Utility patents are available in the United States for any novel, useful and unobvious process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter; or for any novel, useful and unobvious improvement to any of these. With some exceptions, the term of a US utility patent is generally 20 years from the effective filing date of the application for the patent. Maintenance fees must be paid on US utility patents every 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after the issuance of the patent in order to keep it in force.
US design patents are available to protect new, original, and ornamental designs for inventions. US design patents are relatively narrow in scope, and protect only the aesthetic appearance of an invention (i.e., its “look”), but not any functional aspects of the invention. The term of a US design patent is 14 years from the date it is issued. Maintenance fees are not required to keep a US design patent in force for its entire term.
Patents may also be obtained in the United States for newly discovered varieties of plants that have been asexually reproduced. A new plant variety is often identified by a grower as unusual branch or tree (sometimes called a “sport”) in an orchard of similar trees that demonstrates a unique characteristic that is different from the other trees. If a sport can be asexually reproduced (e.g., grafted) and maintain its unique characteristic, and if other criteria are met, it may become the subject of a US plant patent application. The term of a US plant patent is the same as a US utility patent, ordinarily 20 years from the effective filing date. Maintenance fees are not required to keep a US plant patent in force for its entire term.
Difference from Trademark or Copyright. A patent provides protection for an invention (such as a process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or improvement thereof; an ornamental design; or an asexually reproducible plant). A trademark is a distinctive word, symbol, name, device, or combination thereof used on certain goods to identify their source; a service mark is such a distinctive item used on certain services. A copyright provides protection for certain works of original authorship (expressions) including literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, audiovisual works, and sound recordings.