The imagination, creativity, and determination of numerous individuals have resulted in a country that has a thriving industry. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a federal agency that fulfills the section of the constitution that encourages the progress of useful arts and science by securing exclusive rights to inventors for their discoveries. The USPTO is in charge of providing protection for individuals and companies whose new ideas lead to new products, employment opportunities, and a strong economy.
One of the areas in which the USPTO is heavily involved is the granting of patents. A patent permits an inventor to prohibit anyone else from using, making, or selling an invention. When an individual invents something that they would like to claim as their own, they file an application with the USPTO. Inspectors in the agency have their work cut out for them, as there are a number of criteria that must be met in order for a patent to be granted. The first is that the invention must fall into one of three categories:
- Design patent: This protects a design or distinctive appearance of a manufactured object.
- Plant patent: This protects the invention of a distinct plant variety that is discovered via asexual reproduction.
- Utility patent: This is a common patent and is granted for the creation of new processes, chemicals, and machines.
Once it has been determined that the invention falls into one of these categories, it must also meet a number of other requirements. A new discovery must comply with the following:
- Be novel and brand new
- Be an unexpected development as opposed to the logical next step of a current invention (also known as non-obvious)
- Be operable and have a beneficial use (applies only to a utility patent)
If a patent is granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there is an expiration date depending on the type of patent. The term for a utility patent is 20 years, a plant patent is good for 17 years, and a design patent expires 14 years after the original filing date. The owner of the patent must also pay maintenance fees over the course of the patent in order to keep it in force. Once the patent expires, either due to the original expiration date or due to the failure to pay fees, the invention is available for use and distribution by the public.
Another important area in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is involved is trademarks. A trademark helps to distinguish the source of a product from another. A service mark is basically the same thing except that it distinguishes a source of service. A trademark can take a number of forms, whether it is a single word, a phrase, symbol, name, or device. The use of a trademark prevents others from using the same mark or a similar one that may confuse customers.
While a trademark does not have to be registered, there are numerous benefits in doing so, and this is where the USPTO comes in. When you first claim a mark, you are allowed to use the symbol ™ or ℠ in order to let the public know. To register the mark, you fill out an application through the USPTO, and once the trademark has been officially registered, you can use the federal registration symbol ®. One of the benefits of officially registering your mark is that it allows you to apply for an international trademark.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office provides a number of important services. Along with granting patents and trademarks, the office is a great source for learning resources and information about intellectual property and how you can protect the ideas and products that you have worked so hard on.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.