Frequently Asked Questions


You should not rely on any content presented on this page. Material presented here is not intended to be legal advice. The purpose of the content of this page is to recite a few of the types of broad questions that Patent Practitioners typically are asked and the answers generally given to them. This information is provided free as a public service. All persons associated with or responsible for the material on this page disclaim any and all liability for its content.
Please be advised that, before you make any decision regarding the disposition of an invention or technology, it is usually best to consult with a patent practitioner or other competent professional.

What is a patent?
A U.S. patent (officially called a United States Letters Patent) is a grant of authority from the U.S. government. The grant of authority gives the patent owner the right to exclude "others" from making, using selling and importing the claimed invention in the United States.
The first inventor of any new and useful technology may make file an application for and be granted a Letters Patent, provided certain requirements of the U.S. Patent Office are met.

How long a time is a patent good for?
The length of time or term that a new utility patent is enforceable is generally twenty (20) years from the date of its first filing. The actual term of a specific patent may be longer or shorter, depending on the type of patent, payment of maintenance fees or the subject matter of the application.
After the term of the patent, the technology become public property, and anyone may practice the invention.
What kinds of inventions and technologies are patentable?
Generally, any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof is patentable. In addition to the requirement that the invention be "new," it must also not be obvious. Together, these are called the "novelty" and "non-obviousness" requirements of the subject matter of a patentable invention.

Are ideas patentable?
No, typically ideas are not patentable, unless they have been reduced to practice, or they are in some way reduced to a tangible embodiment. Software is an example of a technologies that in some cases is subject to this requirement before it is patentable.