A patent provides exclusive property rights granted to an inventor (or his assignee) for a fixed period of time in exchange for disclosure of an invention. In essence, it gives an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using or profiting from the claimed invention. Importantly, the inventor must file a patent application within one year of the making of the invention public (sale, usage, etc.) or all available protections may become unavailable.
At Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law, our patent lawyers have been helping inventors protect their inventions for over 20 years — and we’ve successfully obtained over 1,900 patents for our clients. With our complete service flat fee structure and free initial consultation, we are the client service benchmark for intellectual property protection representation in the Upper Midwest and beyond.
Why Are Patents Important?
The first patent was issued in 1790 (signed by none other than George Washington) and over time the role of patents has evolved to protect and encourage inventions, promote the application of inventions, and accelerate the commercialization of inventions to society as a whole. A patent can be used to gain entry to a particular market, exclude others from a market or used as a marketing tool to promote unique aspects of a product.
This means a patent can be used by you to protect your invention from use by others — and stake your claim to the rights, benefits, and revenue associated with exploiting your invention. Patents come in three varieties, and can be used to protect a wide array of items and inventions:
- Utility patent — Utility patents protect how an invention works. They are used to protect a method of use or a particular structure of the invention.
- Design patent — Design patents protect what something looks like. They protect the ornamental features, shape, and aesthetics of a device.
- Plant patent — Plant patents protect new varieties of plants.
How Can Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law Help Inventors and Small Business Owners?
Patent protection is limited to what is claimed in the patent application. As such, it is very important that application itself is prepared properly, includes the necessary information and positions that invention as being new, useful and non-obvious.
Although an inventor can file a patent application without help from a professional, it is generally not a good idea to do so. Improper or incomplete disclosure and description of the invention can result in little or no protection if a patent is granted at all. Using an attorney who is both qualified and experienced in writing and prosecuting patent applications will always provide the best opportunity to protect your invention.
Make sure your patent is prosecuted correctly. For a free initial consultation — and flat fees that are actually complete — contact Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law today by calling 612-216-1161 for our Twin Cities office, 605-334-1571 for our Sioux Falls office, or by filling out our online contact form. With offices in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we help clients across the Midwest and beyond.
Common Patent Law Questions
Why Should You File For A Patent?
A patent is the best, and often the only, way to safeguard the time and effort you have put into your invention. After filing, your invention is patent pending. This puts people on notice that you are actively seeking patent protection and may be used to inform your customers that your product or company is innovative. Publication of a pending patent application can prevent others from claiming your invention as their own, while an issued patent puts you in control of who can legally make, use, sell, import or export the subject matter of your patent.
Without a patent, anyone may copy and use your invention without compensating you. Essentially, you could be doing research and development for competitors if you allow them to simply copy your invention. Filing for a patent allows you to start benefiting from your own invention even before a patent is granted.
What Are The Benefits Of Obtaining A Patent?
At Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law, we strongly believe that having a patent outweighs the prospect of not having a patent. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for getting a patent. And remember — if the cost associated with getting a patent is the main cause of your hesitation, at Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law we offer no obligation, free initial consultations and a complete service flat fee structure with no surprises.
Financial benefits — Obtaining a patent can help you fiscally capitalize on your innovation. A utility patent gives its inventor a monopoly over a technology for 20 years — which can lead to an income stream over this period for the inventor.
Invention protection — By filing for a patent, you gain legal protection against the unauthorized use and sale of your invention — and prevent others from profiting off your invention without your consent.
Safeguard your business — Startups need to protect their intellectual property to give them a competitive advantage over larger companies in the marketplace.
Attract investors — Patents are a good way to get investors, who like to know exactly what they are investing in. A patent application or granted patent will allow them to see exactly what you have to offer.
Licensing rights — If you decide not to use the patent yourself, it is essential that you are filed so you have a legal right you can license or sell to a third party — which can generate income.
Market position — Patents can help a startup expand its market share, which in turn can limit your competitor’s ability to compete in the marketplace.
Why Is Patent Law So Complex?
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.
What Is The One-Year Bar Rule?
Patent law has something called the one-year bar (AKA, The On-Sale Bar or One-Year Rule). 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.
How Do I Know If My Item Is Patentable?
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.