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Patent Information

Imaginationeering can refer you to local patent agents and patent lawyers. We do not provide legal advice regarding patenting your ideas. You can find more information about patents by visiting the United States Patent & Trade Mark Office at: USPTO.GOV.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The role of the Patent and Trademark Office is to grant patents for the protection of inventions and to register trademarks. It serves the interest of inventors and businesses with respect to their inventions and corporate products, and service identifications. It also advises and assists the bureaus and offices of the Department of Commerce and other agencies of the Government in matters involving “intellectual property” such as patents, trademarks and semiconductor mask works.

What is a Patent?

A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

There are three types of patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

NOTICE: This information is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and is intended for informational use only.

Types of Patent Applications/Proceedings

The United States Patent Office states that there are different types of Patent Applications/Proceedings. They are:

NOTICE: This information is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and is intended for informational use only.

What can be Patented?

A patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained.

In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term “machine” used in the statute needs no explanation. The term “manufacture” refers to articles that are made, and includes all manufactured articles. The term “composition of matter” relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 excludes the patenting of inventions useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon. See 42 U.S.C. 2181(a).

The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be “useful.” The term “useful” in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.

Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.

A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.

NOTICE: This information is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and is intended for informational use only.

Who may apply for a Patent?

According to the law, only the inventor may apply for a patent, with certain exceptions. If a person who is not the inventor should apply for a patent, the patent, if it were obtained, would be invalid. The person applying in such a case who falsely states that he/she is the inventor would also be subject to criminal penalties. If the inventor is dead, the application may be made by legal representatives, that is, the administrator or executor of the estate. If the inventor is insane, the application for patent may be made by a legal representative (e.g., guardian). If an inventor refuses to apply for a patent or cannot be found, a joint inventor or, if there is no joint inventor available, a person having a proprietary interest in the invention may apply on behalf of the non-signing inventor.

If two or more persons make an invention jointly, they apply for a patent as joint inventors. A person who makes only a financial contribution is not a joint inventor and cannot be joined in the application as an inventor. It is possible to correct an innocent mistake in erroneously omitting an inventor or in erroneously naming a person as an inventor.

Officers and employees of the United States Patent and Trademark Office are prohibited by law from applying for a patent or acquiring, directly or indirectly, except by inheritance or bequest, any patent or any right or interest in any patent.

NOTICE: This information is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and is intended for informational use only.