Search Patenting begins with the search. Any patent ultimately is only as strong as the search of prior art. An effective patent application cites and describes the best prior art, and clearly distinguishes the patentable subject matter over the prior art.
Utility Patent This is a patent to a novel and unobvious article of manufacture, method of manufacture, composition of matter, or method of use. Certain business methods are now patentable, as well as some computer programs.
Provisional Patent Applications A provisional application offers an applicant a chance to prepare an application without claims which can be converted to a regular application within a year.
Plant Patent In addition to registration with the Department of Agriculture, new plants can be protected by the patent process.
Design Patents These patents are limited to ornamental appearance, such as auto bodies, or any product that has a unique look that needs protection. Often inventions are protected by utility patents, design patents, and trademarks.
PCT Applications Patent applications can be filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The applicant designates the countries belonging to the treaty where examination and patent protection is desired. Every industrial nation of importance falls under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Reissue Within two years from the date of the original patent, it is possible to broaden patent claims that have already been issued. The original patent claims perhaps include an unnecessary limitation, making the patent easy to infringe by competitors. Or perhaps the applicant simply claimed less than he was entitled to claim. At any time during the lifetime of a patent, the claims may be narrowed in order to obviate prior art and make the patent stronger in a litigation. Many errors can be corrected through reissue.
Reexamination Patents are subject to reexamination either by the patentee, in an ex parte proceeding, or by a third party, in an inter partes proceeding. Reexaminations are only granted when the Patent Examiner determines that significant prior art which is not cumulative with that cited in the original patent is brought to the attention of the Examiner. This new prior art must raise a substantial new question of patentability. Many times a reexamination proceeding is used to avoid or supplement a more costly litigation in Federal Court.
Interferences When two parties are claiming subject matter that overlaps, an inter partes proceeding called an interference can be declared by the Patent & Trademark Office. Sometimes the applicant can provoke an interference through application of specific steps. The Patent & Trademark Office determines which party is entitled to the conflicting subject matter. Interferences also occur with trademarks.
Appeal Patent applications denied by the Patent & Trademark Office can be appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. Adverse decisions within the Patent Office are subject to review in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where new evidence but not new issues may be raised. Alternatively, an adverse decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences may be reviewed by the Federal Circuit.
Litigation Patents, trademarks, and copyrighted material are sometimes infringed. When all else fails, suits are brought against the offending individual or corporate entity in the appropriate court.
Licensing Technology can be completely or partially transferred, for the entire duration of a patent or discreet periods of time. Royalties are paid for the licensing of a patent.
Secured Transactions It is becoming increasingly common for financial transactions to be secured by patents, much in the same way that a loan is secured by other assets.
Trade Secret Sometimes, especially when it is not apparent from the finished product how the product is made, it may be advantageous to keep the technology secret. There is no time limit to trade secrets, unlike patents.
Infringement Search Opinion An individual or corporate entity oftentimes needs to know if a particular product infringes the patent of another. By obtaining a thorough patent infringement search, a patent suit can be avoided, or a proper patent license obtained.