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The Nuts And Bolts Of Patent Law

Patent law is a complex area of law that scholars and lawyers have debated for years. Questions like "what is patentable," "what is new" and "what is prior art" have occupied the minds of lawyers and judges for years.

Why? Because there is no simple answer to any of these questions. Every case is unique and highly fact specific — and generalized rules are hard to apply with any certainty. The initial arbiters of what is patentable — the patent examiners — can be difficult to predict.

At Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law, we have two decades of experience in the complex field of patent law. We have successfully obtained over 1,900 patents for our clients and know the best course of action in any given situation. And unlike many other patent law firms, we offer free initial consultation — and a complete service flat fee structure with no hidden costs.

Patent Law And Legal Considerations

Patent law is driven by a complicated set of federal statutes, regulations and case law. At its core, patent law requires that a patentable item be useful, novel (that is, "new," as compared to the prior art) and non-obvious.

  • Useful — Most inventions are created to solve a particular problem making the usefulness requirement the easiest to meet. While most inventions are considered improvements, an invention only has to have a use and does not actually have to be an improvement over what already exists.
  • Novelty — For an invention to be patentable, it must be "novel," or new. It must be different from anything that is known publicly or within the field of the invention. When a patent application is filed, the USPTO examiner will review the prior art and determine whether the invention is new.
  • Prior art — Prior art, in essence, is anything that tends to demonstrate that your invention is already known to others — that is, that your invention has already been invented. Prior art does not need to be readily available or in physical form, and can include existing patents, prior publications and anything that was in public use or on sale anywhere in the world before the date your patent application was filed.
  • Non-obvious — Patentable inventions must also not be obvious to those working in the field of the invention. So even if a new invention is different from the prior art in one or more ways, it may still not be patentable if the differences would be an obvious variation to those skilled in the art.

Keep in mind that a prior art search will help to determine whether your invention appears in the prior art. A prior art search and opinion may save you the expense of filing a patent application that is unlikely to be granted.

The One-Year Bar (AKA, On-Sale Bar, One-Year Rule)

Patent law also has something called the one-year bar. Under this rule, an inventor must file for protection within one year of any public disclosure of their invention anywhere in the world.

While this rule lets inventors market or commercialize their inventions for up to a year before deciding whether they wish to seek patent protection, the invention will fall into the public domain (and become prior art) after the one-year period expires. If no patent application is filed before the one-year bar, the invention becomes ineligible for patent protection and the inventor will be barred from protecting their original invention. A patent application may still be filed, but only to potentially protect any new features which have not been public for more than one year.

Contact the attorneys at Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law for more information on patent law. For a free consultation, call our Twin Cities, Minnesota, office at 612-216-1161, or our Sioux Falls, South Dakota, office at 605-334-1571. You can also reach us online.