Product Patent Overview

When most people hear about patents, what comes to mind is the protection of an invention or an idea. These are covered under utility patents, but did you know that patents can protect the design and appearance of a product as well?

Securing Product Rights & Exclusivity

Patents keep others from producing, utilizing, selling, or importing an invention or a design within the jurisdiction of the patent. A person and/or company whose has a patent on their product has the right to exclusively manufacture, sell, or import their patented invention or design. In essence, it gives the owner a limited monopoly on their product.

Below are some of the basics you should understand about the different types patents:

  • Utility Patents

    A utility patent safeguards the way a product functions and works. They last for 20 years from the first filing date with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The scope of protection is dependent on the claims that were included in the application that was submitted. The technical features that are called out in the application are protected if the application is passed through.

  • Design Patents

    The purpose of a design patent is to protect a product’s appearance. While an application for a utility patent requires precise technical specifications, a design patent application needs clear drawings of the item. “The issues of “novelty” and “obviousness” tend to be much less restrictive than the legal standards for utility patents.” Design patents only last 15 years from the date they were granted.

Understanding the Patent Filing Process

If you are going to file for a patent, you should understand that the patent system follows the “first to file” principle. This means that the first party to file for a patent for a design or invention will own the rights to it, regardless of who came up with the idea.

The patent process can take quite a bit of time. There is a “micro” business option the USPTO offers. For a design patent, the examination process of an application can take about 13 months. On a utility patent, it takes about 18 months on average for you to receive the first office action, and about 30 months before the patent is issued. You should expect the patent process to take about 2-3 years.

You can repeatedly file for the same patent with the USPTO, but each time you resubmit an application, the process is considerably extended. It’s much better and cheaper to sit down with a patent attorney to iron out any flaws in your application.

Patents are only enforceable in the jurisdiction they were issued, meaning that a patent filed an issued in the U.S. will be under protection only in the U.S. Keep this in mind if you want to bring your product to international markets, you may want to file for patents in more than one country. This can get a little expensive.

“The basic filing fee in 2014 is $280 and that’s just the start. You also have to cover the examination ($720) and search ($600) fees, on top of your patent attorney’s fees. The USPTO requires maintenance fees to be paid at regular intervals to uphold the patent. These come at the 3.5-, 7.5-, and 11.5-year mark, costing $1,600, $3,600, and $7,400 respectively”.

Provisional Patents

In the United States, you can file for a provisional patent. A provisional patent is a patent that isn’t examined, but is used to set a date for the invention. These are commonly filed as informal documents such as product manuals, specification guides, papers that outline an invention. Applications for provisional patents must contain full technical disclosure. Provisional patents give the person who applied for it one year to file for utility patent. If they haven’t filed during that time, then anyone can file a utility patent for that specific invention.

Should You File for a Patent?

If you have the money, then in most situations it is a good idea to try and get a patent on your product. They offer a strong degree of protection.

However there are some cases in which a patent may not be best for your situation such as the following:

  • Your invention is in a rapid developing field and the technology you invented will be obsolete
  • You can keep your technology a “trade secret” in which it is already protected by law.
  • You work in a field where patents will antagonize engineers

You should consult with a patent attorney to see what option would be best for your situation. Be cautious of people that claim to know everything about patents that aren’t legally certified.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Global Trade Specialists is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

Unique Product Development Help

While we’re not attorneys and cannot help advise on specifics of your product patents, we do have a lot of experience with products through the whole process of development, manufacturing and sourcing from China. Global Trade Specialists has been helping produce unique products and source them from China for 30 years. Give us a call at 719-264-5007 or send us a message on our contact form if we can help with you unique product design or manufacturing.

Legal Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.