Saturday, January 1, 2005

Part 1 - Short Guide to Patent Protection and Patentability

Discover what can be patented and what that means for you.

Patent protection has been granted to cover many products. From the light bulb to the jet engine, patented products are everywhere. Pharmaceutical drugs, computer software, processes for purifying DNA and even some ecommerce methods have all been granted patent protection.

But for all the products that are patentable, there are probably at least an equal number of unpatentable ones. Literary works, movies, songs and music are not eligible for patent protection. These types of products may be protected by a copyright. For more information on copyrights, you may see the Library of Congress.

And, you cannot gain patent protection for your logo or your product's name. Instead, you may file for a trademark. To apply for a trademark, you need to visit the Patent and Trademark Office website and learn about trademarks.

To get back on the right track, patent protection (generally speaking of course, it depends whether the criteria for patentability are met) may be granted to:

  • objects with a utility
  • designs
  • and plants

Most patented objects fit under the utility category. And these are usually the most profitable. If your invention has any use whatsoever, you should file a utility patent to gain the most protection. Design patents only cover the way an object looks. Plant patents, as you can guess, are only granted for new breeds of plants.

Now that you know a little about what types of products may be eligible for patent protection (sorry, but this is just a small sample of what you need to know about patentability), let's address exactly what patent protection offers you.

If you are granted patent protection on your product, you may exclude others from making or using it. That's right; you will be in complete control of your invention's productivity and its sales. Therefore, you make any profits generated from it. Patent protection provides you with a monopoly on your invention. For utility patents, that monopoly lasts 20 years (which may add up to quite a sum of money if your invention is popular).

But wait a minute, what happens after the 20 years term is over? Well, once your patent term expires, anyone may make and sell your invention, and they won't have to share a dime of the profits with you. It may not seem fair since the invention was all your idea, but, all good things must come to an end. Patent protection doesn't last forever.

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