As patent lawyers, we work to secure our clients’ intellectual property by obtaining patents for them and defending the rights granted by patents – up to and including litigating cases of patent infringement.
What does a Patent Attorney Do?
A patent attorney can assist you with filing or file your application on your behalf with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This process is generally long and complicated, and an experienced attorney can help increase the chance of approval, decrease the time between application and approval, as well as mitigate the risks of improper filing.
Initially, an intellectual property lawyer will help you determine if you should file an application with the USPTO. Inventors who have created something new or have created an improvement to something existing are eligible to file an application with the USPTO, where their idea must meet certain conditions. If approved, a patent will grant the owner legal protections that aim to prevent the idea from being used by others without their permission.
The goal of patent attorneys is to help give your application the best chance of approval, in the fastest amount of time, which will involve extensive and thorough research to determine whether your invention or parts thereof meet the requirements for approval.
Patent lawyers can also assist you in determining whether your idea meets the USPTO requirements for approval. In order for an idea to be approved, it must meet three criteria:
- the idea or invention is novel or not previously known,
- it must be unobvious, meaning an expert in the field relating to the idea would find a sufficient difference between the idea and what has been used before, and;
- the idea must be useful and operable.
Design Patent vs Utility Patent
Patents are divided into three categories by form – utility, design, and plant. While plant patents are available to protect distinct and new plants, design patents and utility patents are far more common.
A utility patent is designed to protect ideas relating to processes, machines, manufacturing, a composition of matter, or an improvement upon an existing idea. Because of the broad definition, utility patents account for nearly 90% of all filings. Some ideas that could qualify for a utility patent include computer software, cosmetics, housewares, new chemical formulas, food inventions, biological inventions, and other manufactured goods. Once granted, utility patents protect the idea or invention for twenty years.
Design patents cannot protect functional items, but may only cover purely ornamental or aesthetic items. For example, a design patent could cover an IKEA chair, a new font, or designer sunglasses. Design patents protect a design from infringement for fourteen years.
Filing a Patent
While it is not required to have an attorney file an application, the process is complex and can lead to confusion resulting in insufficient protection (or rejection) if filed improperly. Additionally, the risk of improperly filing your patent is much higher without experienced patent lawyers to guide you through the long legal process. Not only may your patent end up indefensible due to issues such as being “overly broad,” it could also take an unnecessarily long time to obtain the patent, which could result in greater and unnecessary fees.
Typically, a registered patent attorney will file a patent application on your behalf. There are two types of utility patent applications granted by the USPTO:
- Non-Provisional Patent Application
- Provisional Patent Application
Each type of application has different requirements; and, notably, a provisional patent application cannot become a patent. Provisional patent protection is only available for 12 months and must be renewed or converted into a non-provisional patent application thereafter.
Patent applications are reviewed by patent examiners that will approve them or not. If not, you can respond by amendment or argument. The benefit of working with a patent lawyer is they have the experience and knowledge to argue on your behalf, which increases the odds of approval while reducing the risk of having your application denied.
Unfortunately, patent infringement is a reality all inventors must contend with in our society. Patent infringement costs billions every year. The law recognizes two main types of patent infringement: direct infringement and indirect infringement.
Direct Infringement means the alleged infringer sells, uses, or imports a product or process under U.S. patent protection. Indirect infringement, in contrast, occurs when another individual or entity induces or contributes to patent infringement.
Businesses and individuals may unknowingly or unintentionally infringe on the patents of others, while others willingly pirate or steal ideas for profit or other reasons. When this happens, a capable intellectual property attorney with litigation experience is best suited to protect your patent rights and obtain compensation for damages caused by the infringement.
The process of obtaining a patent can take years. The law is complicated and – without having navigated it previously – an inventor takes on many risks, including making unintentional mistakes in language or making poorly worded descriptions that decrease the chances of approval. A patent lawyer can also ease the difficulty in complying with the numerous rules and regulations the USPTO requires for a successful application.
The USPTO also requires extensive research to prove your idea has not been patented previously before it will approve your application. The attorneys at Adair Myers Stevenson Yagi have the knowledge and experience necessary to improve your chances of patent application approval.
Houston Patent Attorney
The attorneys at Adair Myers Stevenson Yagi can help you file for a patent and help you protect your rights if they are being infringed on. We are also available to defend you against wrongful allegations of patent infringement. Contact us today to see how we can help you protect your ideas.