Every new inventor should acquaint him or herself with patent law. As the creator of your unique work, it’s up to you to protect your rights.
How does a patent differ from a trademark, servicemark, or copyright?
The distinction between patents, trademarks, servicemarks, and copyrights is often blurry for many new inventors. A trademark is a device, name, word, or symbol used to indicate the source of a good and to help distinguish it in trade from other goods. A servicemark acts like a trademark except it’s used for services rather than goods. To learn more about trademarks or servicemearks, consult with a trademark attorney in Minneapolis.
Copyright protects the rights of authors of “original works.” A copyright can be used to protect literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or other intellectual works, whether they are published or not. Under intellectual property law, a copyright entails its owner has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the work under copyright. Copyright protection lasts for only a limited period of time. According to copyright law, any works created after January 1, 1978 can be copyrighted for a period of 70 years after the death of the author.
A patent provides property rights to inventors. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a patent prevents others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling” a given invention in the U.S. or from importing it into the United States. The key word in the definition of a patent is “exclude”: a patent provides you, as the inventor, the right to exclude others from replicating your design. Once you receive a patent, it falls to you to enforce your patent. As such, many inventors choose to consult with design patent law firms in Minneapolis for help protecting and defending their rights as inventors.
The three types of patents
There are three types of patents a new invention may require: design patent, utility patent, and plant patents. Design patents provide intellectual property rights to the owner for the inventions appearance. Design, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, constitutes the visual characteristics within or applied to a manufactured article. Under patent law, a design patent will last for 14 years beginning the date the patent is granted.
Design patents do not protect your exclusive rights over your invention’s function or structure, however. For that, you would need a utility patent. Inventions or discoveries of new processes, machines, composition of matter, or articles of manufacture, or the improvement of any of the above, can be granted utility patents. Utility patents usually lasts 20 years from the date its granted. If your invention is new in appearance, structure, and function, then, you’ll likely want both a design and utility patent.
As the name suggests, plant patents protect the rights of horticulturalists who invent or discover a new variety of plant.
Applying for a design patent
If you have a new invention that warrants a patent, the best first step to take is to consult with one of the design patent law firms in Minneapolis. There are many definitions which an article of manufacture must meet before it can qualify for a patent. These definitions can be found on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. They can also be found at any of the design patent law firms in Minneapolis. A patent lawyer can also help you determine if the statutes governing design patents will meet your protection needs.
The application for a design patent generally includes among other requirements:
- General information about the nature and use of the article
- A rendering of the design
- A description of the rendering
- A description of the features
- Related applications
- A statement in regards to federally sponsored research and/or development
- An oath or declaration.
For more help in filing a patent application, consult with design patent firms in Minneapolis.
Protecting your patent rights
As we said before, the United States Patent and Trademark Office leaves it to the owners of patents to defend their rights of exclusivity. Patent lawsuits have increased significantly over the past 20 years, rising from an average of 500 each year to almost 3,000 annually. Design patent law firms in Minneapolis can help if someone else infringes on your rights as a patent holder.