Since the first patent law was enacted in the United States during 1790, there have been thousands of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In 2016 alone, for example, the USPTO issued 303,051. In addition to patents, there are other practices used to protect intellectual property, which includes copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
Types of Patents
There are three kinds of patents which are defined in detail by the USPTO. These are utility, design, and plant patents. It’s essential to know that there are strict criteria in order for a patent to be considered. An invention must meet the following criteria:
It’s interesting to note that utility patents are the most common type of patents issued by the USPTO. When taking all types of patents into consideration, approximately 90% of these are for utility patents.
Once the inventor or inventors believe they meet all of the criteria, they can apply for a patent. Currently, the USPTO receives more patent applications than it did just a few decades ago in 1980. They reported that this amounts to six times as many applications.
Digital communication and computer technology patents are quite prevalent in the United States and abroad. In 2016, for example, the most international patent applications were for these technologies. When considering the prevalence of international applications, they claimed first and second place for these digital communication and computer technology.
Duration of Patents
Patents do have an expiration date. If someone received either a utility or plant patent after June 8, 1995, it would expire 20 years following the original date of application. Maintenance fees also need to be paid during this time period. Design patents, however, have a 14-year expiration date following the date they were issued.
Learn More About Intellectual Property Practices
If you are working on a patent application, it makes sense to consult with a patent lawyer to assist you with becoming more informed about intellectual property practices. Since these professionals have experience with this form of intellectual property protection, they will be able to provide you with important information and legal counsel. Furthermore, a patent lawyer will be able to address any questions that you may have about the overall process, such as the possibility of patent infringement.
Since patent infringement can be a definite cause for concern, an attorney can provide legal help should this issue arise with your invention. In 2016, for example, Lex Machina, a legal analytics firm, reported that 4,537 patent infringement suits were filed. Given this and other important aspects of the patent process, learning more about intellectual property practices can prepare you for a variety of issues that may arise.