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Patent Facts

Why does an individual or an organization need patent protection?
A US patent is a right granted by the United States to an inventor or assignee, to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the consent of the inventor or assignee. The inventor or assignee may license or sell the rights defined by the claims of the patent. However, without patent protection, anyone can make and sell your invention without your permission and without compensating you. This principle extends to foreign patents if the inventor or assignee wishes to make, use, or sell the invention in the foreign country.

Patent protection should always be considered by an inventor or assignee during the initial stages of the invention. Anyone who believes that an inventor or assignee does not need patent protection in today's market does not know the current marketplace. As competition between companies large and small is extremely strong and because investors are ever more requiring that companies have intellectual property assets, the number of patents filed each year is ever increasing. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office currently receives about 300,000 patent applications per year.

Before seeking patent protection however, you should first determine the potential for marketing of the invention. If your invention is not marketable you may not need patent protection. To determine whether or not your invention is marketable, you should ask whether another company could profit from your invention either today or in the future. If the answer is yes, patent protection should be sought so that the other company would be required to license the patent rights from you.

Timely filing of an application is essential in order to preserve your patent rights. There are a number of sections of the U.S. patent law that are statutory time bars regarding disclosure. In the U.S., a patent must be filed within one year of certain events that constitute disclosure (e.g. publication, presentation, public use, offer for sale, etc.). Failure to obtain a filing date prior to the expiration of a statutory time bar will result in the loss of all rights to a U.S. patent. Most other countries require filing an application for patent prior to any disclosure.

Patenting your invention is inherently complex. Therefore, you should rely upon your patent practitioner (registered patent agent or registered patent attorney) during the patenting process for good advice and to avoid making costly mistakes. Since a patent application is a technical document as well as a legal document, it is essential for your patent practitioner to have a good basic understanding of the underlying technology as well as the current patent laws and prosecution process.

This information is provided courtesy of G. L. Loomis & Associates, Inc. for general reference only and must not be construed as legal advice applicable to any particular fact situation.

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