A patent is the intellectual property right granted by the US Government to an inventor "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout US or importing the invention into the US" for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when patent is granted.In most cases this is twenty years from the date of application. In some situations, the term of the patent may be extended due to delays in the processing of the application. After the patent has expired, the invention becomes public domain. In addition, patent owners must pay a maintenance fee at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after issue or else the patent will expire.
Utility Patent - Describes a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture , or composition of matter, or useful improvement thereof (what something does)
Design Patent - A new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture (how something looks)
Plant Patent - Describes an asexually reproduced distinct and new variety of plant (for example ‘NuMex Heritage 6-4’ New Mexican Chile Pepper)
You have an idea for an invention - or have gone so far as to create a prototype. Before marketing your invention, you will need to determine if your invention has already been patented. You will want to conduct a thorough patent search. This will usually involve searching a number of different patent sites, so it is useful to keep a log of all your search activity, thus avoiding duplicate efforts.
You can begin your search the following way:
1. Brainstorm Keywords to describe your invention - think of synonyms.
2. Use your Keywords to search for a similar match of your invention in Google Patents. The Advanced Search in Google Patents lets you enter phrases, exclude a word, etc.
3. Write down the class and subclass of the similar invention.
4. Use the class and subclass to search patents and patent applications at the USPTO website classification search. Note: The default search is CPC (Cooperative Patent Classification) which is a joint effort between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO). This classification system harmonizes the former European Classification (ECLA) and United States Patent Classification (USPC) systems.
5. Trace related patents through references.
Although Google Patents is easy to use it is not as current as the USPTO website. If you need to look through a large number of patents it mat be worthwhile to make an appointment to use the PubWEST database at the Patent & Trademark Resource Center. This database is not accessible except through the PTRC.
Also: Patent Process Overview
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
Trademarks can be registered with various individual states, the USPTO, and other countries. Performing a thorough trademark search is complicated by the number of different trademark registration sites.
Learn some Basic Facts About Trademarks in this booklet.
Although not required prior to filing an application, you are encouraged to search the USPTO's trademark database to see if any mark has already been registered or applied for that is similar to your mark and used on related products or for related services. If your search yields a mark that you think might conflict with your mark, you should then check status to see if the application or registration is still "live," since any "dead" mark cannot be used to block a new application.
A complete search is one that will uncover all similar marks, not just those that are identical. In this regard, searching for trademark availability is not the same as searching to register a domain name. A domain name search may focus on exact hits, with no consideration given to similar names or use with related products and services. Basically, a domain address is either available or it is not. The trademark process, on the other hand, is more complex. As part of the overall examination process, the USPTO will search its database to determine whether registration must be refused because a similar mark is already registered for related products or services (i.e., even identical marks may co-exist if used on goods or services not considered to be related in any way).
**Please note that the USPTO does not offer advisory opinions on the availability of a mark prior to filing of an actual application.**
In addition to the videos found on the "Trademarks" page of this guide, the USPTO website has a great deal of information. Or, you may search the following:
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