Patent Basics

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the government agency responsible for examining patent applications and issuing patents. A patent is a type of property right that gives the patent holder the right, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing into the United States the subject matter that is within the scope of protection granted by the patent. The USPTO determines whether a patent should be granted in a particular case. However, it is up to the patent holder to enforce his or her own rights if the USPTO does grant a patent.

There are three types of patents – utility, design, and plant; there are two types of utility and plant patent applications – provisional and nonprovisional. A provisional application is a relatively quick and inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention which can be claimed in a later filed nonprovisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned twelve months after its filing date and is not examined. An applicant who decides to initially file a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier provisional application filing. A nonprovisional application is examined by a patent examiner of the USPTO, and may be issued as a patent if all the requirements for patentability are met. Each year the USPTO receives approximately 500,000 patent applications. Most of the applications filed with the USPTO are nonprovisional applications for utility patents.

When filing a nonprovisional utility patent application, it must be submitted in the English language or be accompanied by a translation in the English language, a statement that the translation is accurate and have payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR §1.17(i). If an applicant files a non-provisional utility application in a language other than English without the translation, statement, or fee, the Applicant will be given a notice and time period to submit the missing item(s). A nonprovisional utility patent application must include a specification, including a description and a claim or claims; drawings, when necessary; an oath or declaration; and the prescribed filing, search, and examination fees.

More information on patents may be found at the USPTO.

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