A patent may be granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof subject to certain conditions. A patent provides the owner the right to exclude others from practicing the disclosed invention for a period of time, usually 20 years from filing for a utility patent and 14 years from the grant date for a design patent.
Even though you think you have a great idea, it may not be possible for you to obtain a patent due to prior disclosed inventions by others or certain actions you yourself have taken within a specific time period such as disclosure or an offer to sell the idea. In other cases, the business return may not justify the expenses associated with obtaining a patent. It may ultimately make more sense to keep your idea as a trade secret or just manufacture it without a patent.
Individual inventors and small companies may apply for their own patents. However, the rules and regulations defining the process to acquire a patent are complex. It typically takes 18-36 months to acquire a patent. The manner in which an invention is written and claimed can also have a huge impact on how much protection is afforded to your idea through the patent. For these reasons, most inventors usually hire a patent attorney/lawyer or patent agent to help them through the process. |
Tom Ference, living in Vermont, is a registered patent agent with the USPTO. He also has 15 years experience as an engineer and entrepreneur who has taken several products from the idea stage to a commercial product. Tom can help you decide if a patent is the best protection for your idea and then guide you through the process of obtaining a patent. He works primarily with independent inventors and small companies to protect their intellectual property rights
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