Obtaining a patent is an important way to protect your ideas and inventions. However, part of the patent process makes it easy for people to infringe on your work.
Learn the basics of obtaining a patent and how to keep your idea safe from copycats until the patent is granted.
The First Step: Obtaining a Patent
The action of obtaining a patent grants rights to the creator of a process or invention. A patent is valid for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application and is issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Recently, women have been filing more and more patents.
Property rights are defined by the US Patent and Trademark Office as “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention in the United States.”
Since 1999, however, Congressional law has required that the US Patent and Trademark Office must publish patent applications 18 months after the earliest filing date of the application. Unfortunately, patents generally take up to 32 months before they are issued. This means there are 14 months wherein the patent details are published and available for everyone to see — and steal.
Problems with Patent Publishing
During the 14 months when the patent is published but not yet granted, patent owners cannot take legal action against anyone who may be infringing on their idea because the patent does not actually exist yet.
A person who files for a patent can request of the US Patent and Trademark Office that a patent application not be published. This seems like an easy solution to the problem, but there are in fact many issues with asking for your patent application to remain unpublished. While the patent application is unpublished, the patent filer cannot claim the basic property rights of the patent.
Even more importantly, if your patent application remains unpublished, you cannot file the patent outside of the United States. While filing a patent in Europe is a confusing procedure, this is still perhaps the greatest risk — someone from a country with a faster patent processing time could come up with the same idea as you and patent it. Meanwhile, your patent remains pending and unpublished.
How to Protect Your Idea
The first thing you can do to protect your original idea or invention is to apply for a patent. Obtaining a patent establishes your rights as the owner.
If you find that someone is infringing on your patent, send notice to the infringing party. Your notice should include a copy of your published patent application. Any details showing how the infringer’s product is infringing on your pending patent’s claims will be helpful, as this will later assist you in proving that the infringing party was aware of the published patent application. Patent translations are also helpful for any international litigation that may arise.
After the patent is issued, the patent owner is able to pursue and collect damages for any infringement that occurred in the period between filing and obtaining the patent.
If you require patent translations or other litigation support, contact the professional attorneys at Legal Language.