Frequently Asked Questions

What is a patent and what are the different kinds?

A patent is a grant from the government that allows you to stop others from making, using, selling, or importing the patented invention without your permission. A patent may be for a physical device or a new method of doing something (protected with a utility patent), a new and non-obvious ornamental design (protected with a design patent), or an asexually reproducing plant (a plant patent). These are the three main kinds of U.S. patents. In exchange for you giving a full description of how your invention works and is used, the U.S. government generally grants you 20 years of patent rights (15 years for design). After this time, your patent expires and anyone may copy your invention freely.

What are the requirements for receiving a patent?

Your invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious over what is already publicly known (called prior art). There are certain categories of subject matter that cannot be patented, even if you have discovered them. Mathematical formulas and natural phenomena are not patentable (such as gravity) are not patentable, but you may be able to get a patent on a device or method of using a mathematicl formula or natural phenomenon.

Does my patent give me worldwide protection?

No. Patents are country specific. A U.S. patent gives you only U.S. rights. A Japanese patent only gives you Japanese patent rights. However, a U.S. patent does protect from imports coming into the U.S. from another country. For example, if you have a U.S. patent, and no Chinese patent, you cannot stop someone from manufacturing your U.S. patented invention in China, but you could stop them from importing that Chinese made product into the United States. Some parts of the world have regional patents (such as Europe), where a single patent or patent application covers numerous countries. The United States is not part of any regional patent.

How much does a utility patent application cost?

For a U.S. non-provisonal (regular) utlity patent application, it would be difficult to have a quality patent written and filed, including government fees for under $6,500, even for the simplest inventions, and over $10,000 for more complex inventions. However, filing an application is only first step in getting a patent. On average most patents receive between 2-3 rejections before issuing (and only about 65% issue at all). Each response to a rejection costs money and there may be extra government fees along the way. If allowed, there are government issue fees, and then every few years there are maintenance fees that the government requires if you want to keep the patent in force. So while the initial application may cost $6,500 to file (on the very low end), you can expect that it could be $10,000+ once finally issued and maintenance fees paid, likely higher.

How long does it take to get a patent?

Typically it may take 1-3 years. If you pay an expedited fee to the Patent Office then you may be able to get it in under a year. Depending on the backlog in the technology group for your invention, it might take longer than three years, especially if there are numerous rejections that you have to respond to.