PATENTS

A patent gives an inventor or company an exclusive privilege of using a certain process or making, using and selling a specific product or device for a specified period of time within the United States. There are three types of patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

 
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 improvements thereof.
 
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
 
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Utility and plant patents are granted for a term which begins on the date of the grant and ends 20 years from the date the patent application was first filed. Design patents are granted for a term of 14 years from the date of the grant. A patent holder loses exclusive rights to the invention when the term expires or when periodic maintenance fees are not paid.

In order to be granted a patent, several criteria must first be met. Most important, the invention or discovery to be patented must be different from any former invention in the same category. Secondly, a detailed description of the invention, including drawings and claims of what the invention does, must be submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to be reviewed. Once a patent application is filed, it typically takes between 20-36 months for it to be processed through the United States Patent & Trademark Office, when it is finally either accepted or rejected.

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