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J. Nevin Shaffer, JR. J. Nevin Shaffer, JR.
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I. What is a patent?

A U.S. patent is a grant of rights from the federal government regarding an invention. These rights include the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention in the United States during the term of the patent. A patent lasts a maximum of twenty years from the date of filing the application.

II. What is the value of a patent?

A patent, with the exclusionary right that it provides, maximizes profits from the invention. The ability to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented device can provide a competitive advantage over rival manufacturers and block competitors from using the patent owner’s patented technology. The patent owner may also exact a fee in return for granting permission to another business to make, use, or sell the invention.

III. What types of things are patentable?

Utility patents are granted for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter that are useful, novel, and non-obvious improvements over the prior art. Design patents are granted for novel and non-obvious ornamental designs for articles of manufacture. Plant patents are granted for certain asexually reproduced plants.

IV. How is a patent obtained?

A U.S. patent may only be obtained by filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Although the inventor may assign his or her rights to an invention, the patent application generally must be in the name of the inventor. Usually a patentability search is conducted prior to filing a patent application to attempt to determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious.

V. How can the right to a patent be lost?

An inventor will be barred from obtaining a United States patent for an otherwise patentable invention if, more than one year prior to the date of the United States patent application, the invention was offered for sale or in commercial use in the United States, in public use in the United States, or patented or described in a patent application in the United States or a foreign country. Also, the availability of patent rights in foreign countries may be lost if the invention is made public or used publicly prior to the effective filing date in these countries.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a legal opinion nor relied upon in lieu of specific legal advice. Accordingly, readers who require legal services in connection with their specific circumstances should consult an attorney competent in the field of intellectual property.

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