Utility Patents – Protecting Inventions

When inventions result in products or processes that can get intellectual property protection, utility patents are often valuable assets, sometimes more valuable than any other assets.

 

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What Is a Utility Patent?

Utility patents are the most common patents.

As a result, when people talk about patents, they usually refer to utility patents. [The USPTO issued the 10th millionth utility patent in 2018].

A utility patent is a patent for an invention. It covers the creation of new or improved product, process, or machine that is novel, useful, and non-obvious.

The United States Code (Title 35, Part II, Chapter 10, Subsection 101) reads:

“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for examining and issuing patents.

In the European Union, utility patents are issued by the European Patent Office, and applicants can choose to apply for protection in all or selected member countries. Around the world, each country has its patent authorities.

 

What is a patent?

A patent is a property right. When a patent is granted, the invention becomes the sole property of the inventor.

Patent protection gives owners the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, distributing, offering for sale or importing their invention without the patent owner consent.

It is granted in a territory for a set period, usually up to 20 years.

 

What is the difference between utility patents and design patents?

Patents are tools to protect innovation.

Utility patents protect the way a product works, such as its mechanics and the way it is used.

Design patents, on the contrary, protect the way a product looks, such as its shape and exterior appearance.

They prohibit competitors from copying a patented aesthetic feature, such as an application filed by Samsung for a transparent smartphone design based on a new display technology.

To protect both the function and appearance, file two separate patent applications.

 

Utility Patents - Protecting Inventions

 

What are the advantages of patent protection?

A patent gives you the right to use the invention.

Like any other form of property or asset, a patent can be bought, sold, and licensed.

If you want to license your product, a patent allows you to do so thanks to reducing risks and granting legal and commercial protection.

Patent licensing and selling can generate revenue sources that sustain businesses.

Patents give a competitive advantage over others who may want to use, imitate, copy or exploit the invention.

It gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling and importing your invention without your consent.

As a result, patents can support your business expansion abroad and into e-commerce.

 

What are the disadvantages of utility patents?

Patent applications require that you give a complete description in text and drawing of your novel and useful idea.

In some cases, not disclosing your invention and keeping it a secret gives you a better competitive advantage.

Another issue is the cost and time it takes to register a patent.

It is crucial to look at the financial value of the patent, and the cost of registration in multiple countries around the world, assess the pace at which the technology is moving forward and make a decision after weighing the pros and cons.

 

What are examples of utility patents?

Utility Patents - Protecting Invention
Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb
Thomas Edison’s patent drawing for an improvement in electric lamps, patented January 27, 1880; Records of the Patent and Trademark Office; Record Group 241; National Archives.

 

Some of the most common things in our lives were originally protected by patents, such as the lightbulb and the telephone.

Inventions that can be protected as utility patents fall into five categories:

  • Processes – methods of performing an action (e.g., business processes, software)
  • Machines – devices and combination of devices in systems to perform a function and produce an effect or result (for example, engines or computers)
  • Manufacture – articles that result from the process of manufacturing (such as brooms, candleholders, or parts of a machine when we look at them separately from the machine)
  • Compositions of matter – compositions of substances that can be chemical compositions or mechanical mixtures (like the pharmaceutical composition of ingredients)
  • An improvement of an existing idea

Some inventions fall into more than one category, and that is ok. Patent applications are not about finding the correct category; they are about falling into one of them to be recognized as a patent.

 

Is it easy to obtain a utility patent?

A patent provides exclusive access to something new and useful. Getting this exclusivity requires going through a challenging registration process.

Utility patents are not easy to write, their approval takes time, and they are not cheap.

However significant the benefits are, patent protection may prove expensive and time-consuming.

Therefore, it is recommended to determine the costs and advantages of registering a patent and where to register it.

 

What are provisional patent applications?

In cases where the disadvantages of filing a utility patent may be greater than the advantages associated with it, it may be useful to file a provisional patent application.

A provisional application grants the applicant an earlier priority date without examination, as long as he or she provides an adequate description.

Within a year of the date of filing the provisional application, the applicant has the right to decide whether or not to file a non-provisional application (our standard patent application).

 

Utility Patents & Protecting Inventions

 

What creates patent priority?

Patent priority is based on the date of the patent application.

The USPTO publishes the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) which describes the laws and regulations for patent applications and also includes some case law.

 

What is a patentability search?

Before filing a utility patent application, conduct a search for existing patents and patent applications to see if anyone has a similar patent or application.

If it exists, the invention is either someone else’s intellectual property or it is not novel.

The USPTO, for instance, has a database for patent search. The EU offers its patent search, as do other countries around the world.

 

How to file a patent application?

An application for a utility patent must include a description of the invention, a claim, and drawings or diagrams to explain how it works.

To describe the invention, break it down into a series of parts and give a thorough explanation.

At the time of application, there are fees for filing, search and examination.

Utility patent applications can be filed at the respective national patent offices in the country or region where protection is sought.

International patent applications make it easier to obtain patents in multiple countries.

 

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

A patent in one country does not secure your rights outside of its jurisdiction.

There is no such thing as a single patent that protects the owner in every country and region.

Although the conditions for patentability are generally universal and the differences are generally minor, to have protection in countries where you manufacture or sell your products, you need to obtain protection in those countries.

In order to gain patent protection in multiple countries, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administers the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The treaty helps patent owners to file applications in contracting countries and regions with one application process.

Filing one patent application under the PCT, you can seek protection for an invention in multiple countries, and it creates the same rights as simultaneously filing separate applications, explains WIPO.

 

Wiser Market Online Brand Protection

 

Wiser Market Online Brand Protection

Wiser Market is an online brand protection agency offering protection services to safeguard your intellectual property rights online.

Submitting a patent application and gaining patent protection is not enough.

After you have an intellectual property asset, stay proactive to prevent others from exploiting your invention.

Using our innovative and highly advanced technology, we scan online channels and detect unauthorized use of your patent and other intellectual property (IP) rights on marketplaces, websites, social media, apps, and other digital channels.

After further analysis and approval, we move on to enforce your rights by removing IP infringing products.

Wiser Market’s superb intellectual property protection makes patents a powerful tool for stopping IP infringements, mitigating damages and protecting your brand online.

 

Want to protect Your Brand?

Contact us for a Free Demo:

 

 

FAQs

What are the types of patents?

There are three types of patents in the U.S.:

  1. Utility patents – cover the creation of any new or improved, useful, and non-obvious product, process, machine, or composition of matter. It is the most common type of patent. It protects the way an article is used and works.
  2. Design patents – for new, original, and ornamental designs for a manufactured item. It protects the way a tangible product looks and its unique visual elements.
  3. Plant patents – for a distinct and new variety of asexually reproduced plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. Plant patents are considerably fewer than utility or design patents.

What are the benefits of patents?

  • Exclusive rights which allow the inventor the sole use of the invention
  • Competitive advantage and strong market position
  • Ability to enforce rights
  • Reduced risk of IP infringements
  • The right to sell the invention or license it for royalty and revenue
  • Attractive for partners and investors

What law governs patents in the US?

The Patent Act is the main law regarding patents in the US. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) also has quasi-patent rights in unique areas of expertise.

 

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