A utility patent is granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for inventions that produce a new and useful result. With a utility patent, an inventor is granted the right to prevent anyone else from making, selling, using or importing the invention without the inventor's consent.
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When inventors talk about patents, they're usually referring to utility patents. This is because utility patents cover the most common categories of invention. As the name suggests, utility patents are granted for inventions that produce a new and useful result (as opposed to design patents, which protect purely ornamental designs on useful objects).
For your invention to qualify for utility patent protection, it must fall into one of the following categories of subject matter:
Because the marketplace for technology is constantly changing, what is "new" today may not be tomorrow. So it's important to file your application as soon as possible after your invention is complete, since the first person to file a patent application will almost always be considered the inventor. Starting March 16, 2013, the first inventor to file will automatically be deemed the inventor. Note, too, that for an invention to be eligible for patent protection, a nonprovisional patent application must be filed within one year of (a) putting the patent on the market for sale and public use; or (b) disclosing your invention to the public in almost any generally available form.
Early filing of a patent application has other benefits as well—once the application is published, potential infringers are put on notice that an application is pending (even earlier, if you decide to start labeling your invention "patent pending," as is your right with a pending application). If a patent is granted, the inventor may seek royalty payments from any person who made or used the invention during that "pending" period, including any provisional period.
To pursue patent protection using your provisional filing date, you must complete and file a corresponding nonprovisional utility patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) within 12 months of your provisional application filing date. Although your provisional application is not reviewed upon filing, both your provisional and corresponding nonprovisional utility patent application will be examined when you submit your nonprovisional application. The nonprovisional application will be carefully examined by the USPTO examining attorney to determine whether a patent will be granted, and the provisional application will be examined to determine whether it contains an invention similar enough to the one in your nonprovisional application that your earlier filing date should apply.
If you do not complete a corresponding utility patent application within the 12-month period following the filing of your provisional application, your provisional application will expire and you will lose your priority filing date. This does not stop you from being able to file another provisional application or a nonprovisional application for your invention—it simply means your initial provisional filing date is lost.
LegalZoom has broken down the utility patent process into two steps. You should allow at least 8 weeks to complete both steps 1 and 2 and file your utility patent application with the USPTO.
It is important that you plan ahead when completing your nonprovisional utility patent application. Allow at least 8 weeks complete the patent process. For your convenience, we've broken it down into two steps:
Includes a phone consultation with a patent attorney or USPTO-registered patent agent, and professional patent drawings of your invention. This generally takes approximately 4 weeks to complete. NOTE: Add an additional week if you also order a patent search and review.
Includes the patent attorney or USPTO-registered patent agent completing your nonprovisional utility patent application and filing it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Because preparing patent applications can be complicated, the law firm handling your order requires at least 4 weeks to complete it. NOTE: If you have a short deadline and need to expedite the processing of your order, the law firm preparing your application may be able to accommodate your request for an additional fee. For more information, please call us at (888) 791-0227 or email us at email@example.com.
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