A patent is a government granted property right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention in the United States, or importing it into the United States for a period of 20 years from the date of filing of a patent application. Patents may be issued for items which are new, useful and non-obvious.
There are three types of patents: plant, design and utility. A utility patent may be granted for any process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any improvement thereof that is novel, non-obvious and useful. A plant patent is directed to asexually reproducing distinct and new variety of plants. A design patent is directed to the ornamental features of an article of manufacture. To be ornamental means that the choice of shape or design does not provide functionality to the article. Novelty means that no one person has described the invention claimed in the application before. Non-obvious means that, given what came before, the invention must be sufficiently different from what has been. Useful means that some benefit must be derived from the item.
A patent is obtained by application to the federal government. The application is a statement of the invention and how it works with any diagrams or artwork. The application must include a claims description with enough detail to allow anyone trained in the appropriate field of science to reproduce the item. There are two types of utility patent applications: provisional and non-provisional. A provisional patent applications allows an applicant to obtain an early filing date while continuing to determine whether to pursue a non-provisional patent application. Only non-provisional patent applications are examined by the USPTO and can result in an issued patent. Before requesting a patent, you should search the list of existing patents to see if someone else already has patented a similar invention. The Rocky Mountain U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (RMUSPTO) at 1961 Stout Street, 14th Floor, Denver CO 80294 and the Denver Public Library, Business and Government Documents Section, 10 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver, CO 80204, have databases and lists of all existing patents. Only attorneys or agents registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may represent inventors before the office although inventors may represent themselves. A list of registered patent attorneys and agents in Colorado can be found at https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/patent-and-trademark-practitioners/finding-patent-practitioner. Applications are filed electronically and you can obtain additional patent information from the RMUSPTO or www.uspto.gov/denver. Along with the written application, you must submit a description of the invention, a drawing, an oath testifying you are the original creator of your invention, and an application fee (which varies depending on the type of patent).
The time and expense required to obtain a patent may be great relative to its value. The average time to obtain a patent following the submission of the application is about 24 months.
The average cost for filing a patent may range as high as $5,000 to $10,000; the majority of these fees are paid to the patent attorney who prepares the patent application. Prices vary greatly based on the complexity of the technology which is the subject of the application. Although the monopoly control of the patent has potential for large financial gains, a patent does NOT guarantee commercial potential or profits.
Patents are granted for 20 years, except for certain ornamental designs which may be issued for a term of 15 years. The patent grants the holder the right to exclude anyone else from using the technology for the life of the patent.
“General Information Concerning Patents” is available online at www.uspto.govand in booklet form at the Denver Public Library and at the RMUSPTO. “Management Aids, #6.005, Introduction to Patents,” is available from the U.S. Small Business Administration by writing or calling the SBA, 721 19th Street, Suite426, Denver, CO 80202, or visit www.sba.gov. Rocky Mountain United States Patent and Trademark Office Educational Seminars 1961 Stout Street, 14th Floor Denver, CO80294 or www.uspto.gov/denver.