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
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
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.