Introduction to Patents and the Patent Process United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)...

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Transcript of Introduction to Patents and the Patent Process United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)...

  • IMPORTANT NOTE: The information in this brochure is prepared for general informational purposes only and is

    not intended to constitute professional legal advice regarding your particular situation. Only an attorney can evaluate

    your situation and give you appropriate legal advice specific to your case. The information in this brochure is

    distributed "as is," with no guarantees regarding its accuracy, completeness and timeliness; therefore, neither the

    author nor DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C. assumes any responsibility for any error, omission, or inaccuracy. Do not rely

    on any of this information before confirming it.

    © 2003-2008, Craig A. Fieschko, Esq. This document may only be reproduced in its entirety.

    Questions? Suggestions on how this paper could be improved?

    Please contact the author using the information above.

    Introduction to Patents and the Patent Process

    Craig A. Fieschko, Patent Attorney

    DeWITT ROSS & STEVENS, S.C.

    2 E. Mifflin St., Suite 600

    Madison, WI 53703-2865

    Telephone: (608) 395-6722

    Facsimile: (608) 252-9243

    Email: cf@dewittross.com

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Glossary of Patent Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

    A. What is a Patent? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    B. Why Get a Patent? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    C. Types of Patents and the Rights They Provide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    C.1. Utility Patent: Purpose and Patent Term . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    C.2. Design Patent: Purpose and Patent Term . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    C.3. The Provisional Patent Application: An “Unfinished” Utility Patent . . . . . . . . . 7

    D. Requirements for Patentability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    D.1. Patentable Subject Matter (Is the Invention Appropriate for Patenting?) . . . . . . 9

    D.2. Utility (Is the Invention Useful?) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    D.3. Novelty (Is the Invention New?) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    D.4. Unobviousness (Is the Invention an Evident or Logical Development?) . . . . . 11

    E. Inventorship: Who “Conceived” the Invention? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

    F. Priority of Invention: The First Inventor Gets the Patent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

    F.1. Proof of Priority: Recordkeeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    F.2. Proof of Priority: Disclosure Document Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    F.3 Priority May Not Protect Against Infringement Liability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    G. The Patent Application Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    G.1. Who Can Apply For A Patent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    G.2. Getting Started with the Application Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    G.3. The Patentability Search . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    G.4. Drafting the Patent Application . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

    G.5. Filing the Patent Application in the USPTO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

    G.6 Confidentiality of Patent Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

    G.7. Small Entity Status and USPTO Fee Discounts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

    G.8. Prosecution (Examination) in the USPTO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

    G.9 The Duty of Disclosure to the USPTO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    G.10. Publication of the Patent Application . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    G.11. Issuance (Granting) of the Patent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

    G.12. Patent Marking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

    G.13. Maintenance Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

    H. Infringement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

    I. A Patent Does Not Necessarily Mean a Patentee can Exploit the Invention . . . . . . . . 22

    I.1. A Patent Does Not Necessarily Provide Immunity from

    Infringement Liability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

    I.2. Clearance (Noninfringement) Searches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

    J. Invalidating a Patent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

    K. Foreign Patents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

    L. Licensing and Marketing Inventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

    L.1. License and Assignment Agreements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

    L.2. Marketing of Inventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

  • Craig Fieschko, Esq.

    DeWitt Ross & Stevens

    Page 1

    1

    Glossary of Patent Terminology

    Patent law has several “terms of art” that are useful to know. Some of the terms more commonly

    used in this document are summarized below:

    Claims: Claims are the portion of a patent that defines the features of the invention for which

    exclusive patent rights are secured. Depending on how the claims are drafted, they may

    provide protection ranging from broad (they provide wide-ranging protection from copying

    of the invention) to narrow (they allow copying of the invention if one or more nonessential

    details of the invention are changed). In general, broad claims are more valuable, but they

    are harder to obtain. See Sections G.4 (page 16) and G.8 (page 17).

    Conception: Conception refers to the generation of such a complete idea of the invention (as it is to be

    patented) that the invention could be constructed and used. Only the parties who

    contributed to the conception of the invention are the true legal inventors that can be named

    in a patent application. See Section E (page 12). It is useful to have proof of conception

    in order to prove priority of invention if someone else alleges they developed the invention

    first. See Section F (page 12).

    Design Patent: Design patents protect the appearance of an invention regardless of its purpose or operation.

    Design patents are generally less valuable than utility patents if one can change the

    appearance of an invention and still have a valuable product. See Section C.2 (page 6).

    Disclosure Document: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a Disclosure Document

    program wherein it will maintain invention records for a limited period of time, which is

    useful to prove priority. Many inventors now use provisional applications in lieu of

    Disclosure Documents. See Section F.2 (page 13).

    Duty of Disclosure: After a patent application is filed, all parties involved in the application process have a

    strict legal duty to disclose all information to the USPTO that might be relevant to the

    USPTO’s grant of a patent. See Section G.9 (page 19).

    Infringement: Patent infringement occurs when someone makes, uses, or markets an invention claimed

    in an issued patent prior to the patent’s expiration. Infringement can subject the infringer

    to monetary damages and injunctions against further infringement. See Section H (page

    21).

    Inventors: Legally, the inventors of an invention are those parties who conceived the invention: those

    who developed such a complete idea of the invention (as it is to be patented) that the

    invention could be constructed and used. A patent application can only be filed in the

    names of the true legal inventors. See Section E (page 12).

    Novelty: A key requirement for patentability (apart from unobviousness) is that the invention

    claimed in a patent application must be novel: new in comparison to the prior art (to all

    prior inventions). If an invention is not novel, it is said to be anticipated. See Section D.3

    (page 10).

    Patent Pending: Patent Pending means that a patent is applied for, but not yet granted. A notice of patent

    pending status serves as a warning to potential infringers that a patent is forthcoming.

    However, a patent applicant does not have the right to stop others from copying an

    invention until a patent is actually granted. See Section G.5 (page 17).