PATENT When you are satisfied with your invention, it is time to take legal precautions to protect it. A grant issued by the U.S. Government through the Patent and Trademark Office gives you, the inventor, certain rights. This grant is called a PATENT if it is given for a manufactured product, a new or improved process, or a new composition of matter, such as a chemical compound. Even a new variety of a plant may be granted a patent. Your patent does something very important for you: it gives you, the inventor, the right to exclude all others from making, using or selling the invention in the United States for up to 17 years. COPYRIGHT You may receive a similar mark of ownership if you are an author of an original work. For written works, this form of protection by the U.S. Government through the Copyright Office is called a COPYRIGHT. Technically, your work is your property as soon as it is "fixed." That means printed out in a tangible form. However, if you want legal protection of your music, art, drama, or writing, you will want to register it with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Then it is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided to you for your intellectual property such as reproducing your work or distributing copies of it. A copyright symbol looks like this: TRADEMARK Another type of protection for intellectual property is call a TRADEMARK. A trademark is usually a symbol, but it may be also be a word, phrase or design which identifies one company or service from another. Consumers come to expect certain standards of quality from a source that they can identify by the trademark when they are shopping for clothes, food, or any other product. You may register a trademark with the Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark symbol looks like this:
ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG INVENTORSTraveling in a car, out shopping, or sitting at home, play a game with trademarks. Try to see who can think of (at home) or spot (if out traveling or shopping), the most trademarks. Another way to play this game is to have your friend alternate with you in drawing a trademark, such as a girl spilling salt under an umbrella (Morton's Salt) and see if they (then you, when they draw) can identify the trademark. To get you started, here's a matching exercise to see if you can identify the common term for the products that the following trademarks represent (Rowland 225). 1. Apple A. athletic footwear 2. Barbie B. board game 3. Crest C. jeans 4. Count Chocula D. photocopiers 5. Juicyfruit E. computer 6. Kleenex F. fashion doll 7. Clue G. toothpaste 8. Levi's H. cereal 9. Reebok I. tissue 10.Xerox J. chewing gum
This section is written in the "Q and A" (question and answer) format so that you can more quickly locate information that you are interested in. The questions, hopefully, are in the order that they would come up in your inventing process. If you have more questions than this section provides answers for, you may want to contact any of the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries located in every state in the U.S. You may contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office's electronic bulletin board (PTO BBS) on Internet at fedworld.gov Also, you may link up to more information via this site.
Q. How can I discover if anyone else already patented my invention?
A. You (or your attorney) need to search patents previously granted. You may do this at any Patent and Trademark Depository Library though the resources of each vary. For a complete search, you may use the Public Search Room of the only Patent and Trademark office in the USA, located in Arlington, Virginia.
Q. Do I have to get a patent for my invention? What if I don't get one?
A. In most cases, it is advisable to get a patent to protect your idea. However, there are certain instances where you probably should wait awhile, and other cases where you might not want a patent at all. A reason to wait is that some inventors rush to get a patent before they have thought of all the possible applications for their invention or before they have made the best possible improvements to their invention. You wouldn't want someone else to think of something better or with a broader range of possibilities, so do take time to think things through. A reason for not getting a patent at all is that a patent expires after 17 years (before, if you don't keep the mainentence fees up) and then any-one else may produce your idea. If you feel certain that you can keep the secret to its production and others can't figure it out just by taking it apart or testing it, then you may want to manufacture it without a patent. Two famous products took this route. One is Coca-Cola whose recipe is still a secret, though many others have made tried to imitate the "cola". Another product that chose secrecy is Silly Putty whose formula is a closely guarded secret. Again, others have tried to produce a flexible "putty" but without discovering Silly Putty's exact qualities. If you don't get a patent for your invention, it is not your property, officially, so anyone else may attempt to get a patent for it (Caney 57).
Q. Can teenagers or younger children apply for a patent?
A. YES! There is no age limit on applying for a patent. In fact, one four year old has a patent out in his name. The real inventor must be the one whose name is on the application. So, for instance, your parents can't "for fun" put your name on it if you really did not invent the product.
Q. How much money does it cost to get a patent?
A. The cost will vary depending on the patent attorney you choose to have help you. Then you will have to pay a fee for filing an application for a patent. Depending on the type of patent application being filed this could be under $200 or up to several hundred more. For example, the fee an independent inventor pays will be less than required for a big business. If you receive a patent, you will have to pay an issue fee ranging from just over $200 to over $1,000. In order for your patent to not expire, you also are required to pay a maintenance fee due at three different times, several years apart.
Q. What are the minimum things I need to submit a patent application?
A. An application must include a specification, including a description and claim; a declaration identifying the applicant believing to be the original inventor; drawing(s) when necessary and the filing fee.
Q. How long does it take to get a patent?
A. The whole process usually takes just under two years.
Q. Is my patent safe from theft?
A. Yes and No. Yes, your patent is safe with the people who work for the patent office because they have had to take an oath to uphold the law. Also, they are prohibited from applying for patents themselves. No. Of course, after your patent is registered, someone can try to steal it. Even so, you are protected because if someone has infringed on your patent rights, then you can sue them in court (Rowland 214).
Links Go to Top Go Home.... Marketing your Invention