This website usually works best with Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Brave and Tor.
A patent protects unique processes, methods, and inventions. These are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Normally, the term of a patent is up to 20 years. U.S. patents are effective only within the United States. Patent protection for other countries must be requested individually for each country. As exhibited on the USPTO website, there are three types of patents:
U.S. Patent Applications are either provisional or nonprovisional. Provisional patent applications are often touted as a quick and easy way to obtain a patent. On its own, a provisional is not really an application for a patent. Rather, it is a conditional document establishing an inventors priority to an invention, as long as a regular nonprovisional patent application is filed within one year. Filing a provisional application legally permits an inventor to claim patent pending too. For additional background on a provisional patent application, see the USPTO webpage all about a Provisional Application for Patent. Furthermore, the USPTO features a helpful presentation entitled Filing a Provisional Application: Demystifying the filing process offering insightful basic tips. Independent inventors may also qualify for substantial discounts on their provisional application when filling out a Micro Entity Status Form.
Patents require a lengthy research and application process that may necessitate the assistance of a patent attorney or patent agent registered with the USPTO. One must document proof that their processes, methods, or invention have NOT been patented before. There is an intricate U.S. Patent Classification system which one must utilize to search the patent database of the USPTO website. Keyword searching alone may not reveal previous patents issued which are similar. There are Patent & Trademark Resource Centers (formerly known as Patent & Trademark Depository Libraries) with librarians or specialists who are trained by the patent office to instruct inventors, entrepreneurs, and others how to search the patent databases. Resource Center librarians can assist patrons with learning about the U.S. Patent Classification system. However, most librarians are not intellectual property attorneys, so they cannot search the patent databases for patrons. These librarians are usually able to provide instruction on how one may use the USPTO databases and related resources for free. To locate your regional PTRC see https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/support-centers/patent-and-trademark-resource-centers-ptrc/ptrc-locations. To start on your own, see patent searching section on this site for additional steps.
In addition to patents, an inventor’s notebook is another option to help protect a documented idea or discovery. An inventor’s notebook (also known as a laboratory notebook) is used by inventors, scientists, and engineers as an official record of their technical work (calculations, experiments, ideas, etc.). It establishes the dates and times when an inventor worked on the development of an invention and shows the progress from conception of an idea through its reduction to practice. The America Invents Act (2011) changed the U.S. patent application grants from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file process. A lab notebook as a supplementary resource can still improve the outcome of a granted patent or a patent contestation. An inventor’s notebook needs to consist of a stitch bound composition notebook with numbered pages and all entries made in ink. Periodically one should have the entries witnessed, signed, and dated by an observer other than the author. For more, see Tamara Monosoff’s related article “Keeping an Inventor’s Notebook,” from Entrepreneur, June 12, 2006.
Other Intellectual Property types for inventions include trade secrets, licensing, digital rights management, and open source/copyleft. These are not associated with a government agency for registration and habitually involve some type of restrictive contract or technology. Open access/open source or Creative Commons works usually provide free permission upfront to share with others for personal, educational, and/or non-profit use. For more about the basics of patents, trademarks, and copyrights, see United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.
Have questions about how to cite patents in your scholarly research or preliminary patent searching records? See Patent Citations guide within this IP Basics section of this site. Additional details on patent searching are located on this site too.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Information on this page and other content from the YIP website, programs, or services are provided for informational purposes only. Any information provided should not be considered legal advice. YIP seeks only to facilitate related information and community connections to further IP awareness. Any information received from YIP should not substitute for securing legal advice from a licensed attorney.