Intellectual Property – Patents
So, what is a patent? Let’s go right to the source: As the government (in the form of the United States Patent and Trademark Office – USPTO) issues all US patents let’s go to their definition: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/whatis.htm “A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions. The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, ‘the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling’ the invention in the United States or ‘importing’ the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.”
WOW, do you have all that — OK, in simplest terms what is a patent — it is the protection of your know-how, your invention or “that brilliant idea” that got you started down this path in the first place. Some things to think about while you’re contemplating taking this path: (i) is your brilliant idea “patentable subject matter” (e.g. you can’t patent a mathematical formula); (ii) does it make sense to file a “provisional patent” (a place holder for one year while you decide if it makes sense to file the real patent application); (iii) are you going to be comfortable disclosing to the public at large the “how to” of your brilliant idea (a patent is required to fully disclose to the general public how your brilliant idea is made and then prohibit anyone from making that same invention – see the definition above); (iv) do you have the funding to file the patent application (a patent application can cost tens of thousands of dollars to file and prosecute – but if that idea really is unique and brilliant it may be a good investment); (v) do you have the fortitude to police the market for infringers and prosecute them (otherwise what was the point in getting the patent to begin with); (vi) will you need protection in more than the US (start to multiply those filing dollars); and (vii) a patent must be filed within one year of the brilliant idea being made available to the general public (such as disclosing at a conference) — so think quickly.
Next installment, Intellectual Property – Copyright, and remember, ALWAYS CONSULT AN ATTORNEY FIRST.