Patent Basics: What is a Patent?
A patent for an invention is a grant of property rights by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. A utility or plant patent in force on June 8, 1995, is subject to either the 17 year term from grant or the 20 year term from earliest effective U.S. filing date, whichever is longer. A design patent term is 14 years from patent grant. The right conferred by the patent grant extends throughout the United States. The terms “Patent Pending” and “Patent Applied For” are used to inform the public that an application for a patent has been filed. Patent protection does not start until the actual grant of a patent. Marking of an article as patented, when it is not, is illegal and subject to penalty.
A patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion. Patent applications are examined for both technical and legal merit. Prior to filing a patent application, a search of existing patents can be conducted at the USPTO Patent Search Room or at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in your area.