Patent FAQs

Answers to Basic Questions about Protecting an Invention

Frequently Asked Questions about Getting a Patent

If you’ve come up with an invention or a new way of doing something and you’re wondering if you can protect the time and effort that went into the development, BLPLLC can help. We bring more than 20 years of intellectual property experience to businesses, business owners, and entrepreneurs  around the world. We can carefully review your invention and determine whether it potentially qualifies for a patent. We will also prepare and prosecute your patent application, preparing and filing all documents necessary to get the USPTO to grant a valid patent.

We understand that patent issues can be complex and confusing. A review of the frequently asked questions on this page can give you a basic knowledge of patent concepts, so that you can more actively and effectively work with us and participate in the prosecution of your patent.

Can I get a patent on my invention?

To be patentable, an idea has to be novel, useful, non-obvious, and embody “eligible” subject matter.  We will work with you to understand your concept and advise you on how best to express that concept to the USPTO so it meets these criteria.  We may recommend a novelty search to identify relevant patents or published patent applications.  We will also give you advice on meeting the eligibility requirement under the most recent USPTO and court standards.


What are the different types of patents?

Federal law provides for three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. The most common are utility patents, which are available for processes, manufactures, machines, compositions of matter or improvements on prior similar items.  Provisional applications are a type of utility application.


What’s a design patent?

Design patents protect the appearance of an object.  Jewelry, furniture, fonts, computer icons, mobile app interfaces, footwear, sunglasses, musical instruments, smartphones, and cars are all examples.  While a design patent doesn’t cover how something works (its function), it does cover the shape, configuration, and surface texture.


How long will my invention be protected if a patent is granted?

Utility and plant patents can protect your rights for up to 20 years, typically from the date of the initial filing. Design patents expire 15 years from the date of the granting of the patent. In addition, an applicant may have the period of protection extended in limited circumstances when there are delays during the application process.


What happens if two applications have been filed on the same invention?

The first party to file will be granted the patent. A subsequent filer may obtain a patent, however, upon proof that the first filer was not an inventor, but merely misappropriated the actual inventor’s innovation.


Can (and should) I disclose my invention to the public before filing for a patent?

U.S. patent law permits applicants to make an invention available for sale or use to the public, but requires that you file your patent application within one year of the date of disclosure. If no patent application is filed during that 12-month-period, the invention will no longer be patentable.

Making the invention public without filing a patent application can be a risky move, though, as someone else may see your invention, adapt and integrate it into another device and file a patent application first. In that situation, the first-to-file rules still apply. You can file a provisional patent application, essentially a notice to the PTO that you intend to file a full application. You must, however, complete the application within a year or your provisional patent will expire and your invention will not be patentable.


How long does it typically take to complete the patent application process?

It depends.  The USPTO says that two years from start to finish is about average.  Expedited review (also known as Track One) is available for a fee and can get you through the process in a year or less.


BLPLLC—Extensive Experience Helping Businesses and Entrepreneurs Obtain Patents

At BLPLLC, we have more than two decades of experience guiding clients through the patent application and prosecution process. We know how to put the complex concepts involved in the patent process into plain English, so that our clients can play an active and meaningful role in securing the patent.

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