The Law Office of Robert P. Mino PA – Patently Savvy™
The Law Office of Robert P. Mino, PA, is your Patently Savvy law firm. We offer all forms of intellectual property services, including patent drafting and patent prosecution services.
What is a patent?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to an inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, in which the inventor discloses an invention to the world in exchange for the property right. Generally, 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. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.
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. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.
There are three types of patents:
- Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
- Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
- Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power to enact laws relating to patents, in Article I, section 8, which 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.” Under this power Congress has from time to time enacted various laws relating to patents. The patent law specifies the subject matter for which a patent may be obtained and the conditions for patentability. The law establishes the United States Patent and Trademark Office to administer the law relating to the granting of patents and contains various other provisions relating to patents.
Who can File a Patent
The preparation of an application for patent and the conducting of the proceedings in the United States Patent and Trademark Office to obtain the patent is an undertaking requiring the knowledge of patent law and rules and Office practice and procedures, as well as knowledge of the scientific or technical matters involved in the particular invention. Although inventors may prepare their own applications and file them in the USPTO and conduct the proceedings themselves, unless they are familiar with these matters or study them in detail, they may get into considerable difficulty.
While a patent may be obtained in many cases by persons not skilled in this work, there would be no assurance that the patent obtained would adequately protect the particular invention. For this reason, the law gives the USPTO the power to make rules and regulations governing conduct and the recognition of patent attorneys and agents to practice before the USPTO. Persons who are not recognized by the USPTO for this practice are not permitted by law to represent inventors before the USPTO. Attorneys licensed to practice before the USPTO are Registered Patent Attorneys. Only “Registered Patent Attorneys” are permitted to prepare an application for a patent, conduct the patent prosecution in the USPTO, and draw up a contract for a client relating to a patent, such as an assignment or a license.
What Can Be Patented
The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained.
In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term “machine” used in the statute needs no explanation. The term “manufacture” refers to articles that are made, and includes all manufactured articles. The term “composition of matter” relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 excludes the patenting of inventions useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon. See 42 U.S.C. 2181(a).
The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be “useful.” The term “useful” in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.
Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.
A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.
Novelty, Non-Obviousness, and Enablement Conditions For Obtaining A Patent
In order for an invention to be patentable it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if:
“(1) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention” or “(2) the claimed invention was described in a patent issued [by the U.S.] or in an application for patent published or deemed published [by the U.S.], in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.”
In patent prohibition (1), the term “otherwise available to the public” refers to other types of disclosures of the claimed invention such as, for example, an oral presentation at a scientific meeting, a demonstration at a trade show, a lecture or speech, a statement made on a pitch-style TV show, a website, or other on-line material. Make sure you discuss such disclosures with your attorney – hiding them doesn’t help anyone and can lead to consequences, such as invalidity of your patent, if issued, or worse. There are certain limited patent law exceptions to patent prohibitions (1) and (2) above which your attorney can address with you.
Even if the subject matter sought to be patented is not exactly shown by the prior art, and involves one or more differences over the most nearly similar thing already known, a patent may still be refused if the differences would be obvious. The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention. For example, the substitution of one color for another, or changes in size, are ordinarily not patentable.
In exchange for providing you with the monopoly which comes with a patent grant, society will expect that you provide a legally adequate description of how to use an make your invention. This requirement, termed “enablement,” requires one to demonstrate how your patentable invention works so that others can understand your invention and add to society’s overall technological understanding. This allows others to benefit from your invention by learning about your disclosure.
The Law Office of Robert P. Mino, PA, can help with your patent filing questions. Regardless of whom you contact, time is of the essence in patent filing deadlines. Delays may lead you to lose valuable rights. You should ensure you have entered into an attorney-client privileged relationship with an attorney as soon as you suspect you may need help in order to avoid losing valuable IP rights. This page is for informational use only; seek the advice of an experienced attorney for advice relevant to your unique facts.