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Basics of U.S. Patent Law

written by: Calvin Merrick•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 3/13/2011

No doubt you have heard the saying, "necessity is the mother of invention". This article discusses the basics of U.S. patent law. These are the laws that protect inventions and convey intellectual property rights.

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    US Patent Basics This article will provide you with the basics of US patent law. It also provides you with a good definition of a patent and why patents are so important when it comes to protecting intellectual property.

    U.S. Patent Law

    United States patent law establishes the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as the administrating agency for patents and trademarks. It also specifies the subject matter for which a patent may be obtained and the conditions for patentability of an invention or concept.

    The nation's first patent law was enacted in 1790. In 1952, patent laws underwent a general revision that took effect on January 1, 1953. Later, in 1999, Congress made further revision when it enacted the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA).

    The USPTO is a U.S. Department of Commerce agency. The primary functions of this agency involve granting patents that protect inventions and the registration of trademarks.

    The USPTO was created to promote the nation's industrial and technological progress through the classification, dissemination and preservation of patent information. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States reads..."Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

    What Is a Patent?

    Patents basically grant property rights of an invention to the inventor, much the same way as a copyright grants rights to authors and writers. U.S. patent grants are valid only within the United States, U.S. possessions and U.S. territories.

    In most cases, the term of a new patent filing is 20 years from the date on which the patent application was filed. In special cases, the term may start from the date of an earlier but related filing. Under certain conditions, patent term extensions and/or adjustments may also be available to the filer.

    Patents are actually exclusionary in nature. Rather than granting the patentee the right to make, use, sell, offer for sale or import an invention, they grant the right to exclude other parties from engaging in the above-mentioned activities. After the patent is issued, it is the responsibility of the patentee to enforce the patent without the aid of the USPTO.

    Key inventions have the potential of revolutionizing industries and lives. Even inventions that don't have great societal impact still have the potential for huge profits and notoriety. For these reasons, it is of paramount importance that they be properly protected.

    While this article discusses the basics of US patent law, there is much more you must learn before you file a patent. It is always a good idea to enlist the assistance of a patent attorney or patent agent for significant discoveries and inventions.

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    Source: USTOP.gov

    Image Credits: SXC.hu/lotushead