What does it mean to have a patent?
- A patent gives you the right to prevent others from practicing your invention as defined in the claims.
- A common misunderstanding is that inventors think that the patent gives them the right to practice their invention. However, inventors already have a right to practice their invention without a patent, unless of course someone else has a patent that encompasses the same invention. You must enforce your patent rights in court against others who do things which fall within the scope of your patent's claims.
What is the scope of protection?
- Your invention is defined and limited only by the claims, which are presented at the end of the patent.
- Another common misunderstanding is that an inventor thinks that everything written in the patent is an enforceable right, when it is only the disclosure or claims at the end of the patent which determine the scope of rights where properly supported by what is written in the patent's specification.
How long does a patent last?
- In general, the patent lasts approximately 20 years from the earliest filing date of the patent application or the first filing date of any previously filed application to which the present application claims priority or 21 years from the filing date of the initial provisional patent application.
- Remember you have to pay maintenance fees at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years from the issue date of the patent to maintain its enforceability and prevent the patent from expiring.
Is this my goose that lays golden eggs?
- Another common misunderstanding is that inventors believe once they get a patent, they are set and that large companies are going to knock on their doors to bestow upon them royalty payments for their patent.
- It is the job of the inventor to find investors and manufacturers or licensees to commercialize the invention. It can be hard work turning an invention on paper into a commercially successful product, service or method.
- Keep in mind that large companies have research and development departments. They have scientists and engineers that are paid to develop new products. They are not going to want to pay you royalties for what they are paying their employees to do. If you have a great invention, you need to prove to them the potential your invention has, and that your patent rights are significant and properly protected.