1. Do I need a patent to sell my product?

No. A patent only gives the inventor the right to keep others from using the invention, not the right to sell the invention.

2. Can I keep my trade secrets and get a patent?

Generally, no. The inventor must disclose the “best mode” of practicing the invention in the patent application. Disclosure of the best mode is in exchange for the right to exclude others from using an invention. However, even though the best mode needs to be disclosed, it is not possible to invalidate a patent because the best mode was not disclosed. Therefore, some applicants for a patent may withhold the best mode.

3. Will the government enforce my patent?

No. If someone infringes an issued patent, the remedy is to sue that person in federal court, or ask the International Trade Commission to bar importation of an infringing product.

4. What is the process to obtain a patent?

The overall process includes the following steps:

  1. Conduct a patentability search (optional).
  2. Prepare and file the application.
  3. Receive a filing receipt from the Patent Office.
  4. The application is typically published 18 months after the filing. It is possible to opt out of publication if no foreign patent applications will be filed.
  5. Receive an office action from the Patent Office.
  6. If the office action raises issues with regard to the patent application, which happens over 90% of the time, respond to the Patent Office. This can occur multiple times.
  7. Hopefully, a patent issues.

5. How long does it take to get a patent?

It is impossible to precisely predict the length of time to obtain a patent. It depends on many factors, such as the overall backlog in the Patent Office, the backlog in a particular technological area, whether it is an application for a design patent or utility patent, and the level of difficulty involved in persuading the Patent Office to actually grant a patent. Under certain circumstances, such as if an inventor is over 65, it is possible to file a petition to expedite the process. There is also the possibility that a patent may never issue. Sometimes the Patent Office is not willing to issue a meaningful patent, or the invention turns out not to be worth the cost of a patent.

6. How long does a patent last?

Generally, a utility patent expires 20 years from the effective filing date. The concept of “effective filing date” is complex, so consult with a patent attorney to determine exactly when a patent actually expires. Moreover, the term of a patent may be extended if delay in issuance of the patent was due to the Patent Office¡¦s failure to expeditiously process a patent application.

Design patents last for 14 years.