why do patents expire?

Why Do Patents Expire?

If you've spent the time and money to make an invention and patent it, you might be wondering: why do patents expire? Why doesn't the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) allow patents to last forever? Patents offer inventors intellectual property rights that last for a limited period of time. For example, utility patents last for 20 years, while design patents last for 15 years. So, why does a patent expire? We will cover this below.

Why Do Patents Expire?

Patents expire because allowing them to last for too long places a constraint on others who want to improve upon existing technology. Current patent law allows inventors to recoup their investment and profit from their invention without slowing down innovation.

There has to be a balance between protecting the rights of inventors to profit from the hard work that it took them to produce the invention and the right of the public to improve existing technology and making it more accessible to the public. Having patents that last forever keeps the price of new technology high and keeps it out of the hands of the average person.

Current patent law strikes a balance between the right of the inventor to control who uses, makes, and sells his invention and the right of the public to exploit new technology and to improve upon it.

Just imagine a world where inventors where granted unlimited monopolies over their inventions. The telephone would still have been patented and everyone who wants to design a new phone or improve upon an existing one would have to obtain the permission of the original inventor. This slows down the progression of technological advances.

Utility patents give inventors a monopoly over their invention that lasts for 20 years from the date an applicant files a utility patent application. Design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application.

So, why do inventors choose to patent their inventions? Inventors patent their inventions to stop others from copying and reproducing their inventions without their consent. Having a utility patent or design patent over an invention allows an inventor to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented invention for a limited period of time.

For utility patents, this limited period of time is 20 years and for design patents, it's 15 years. Utility patents protect how inventions work, as well as the functional aspects of an invention. Design patents protect how an invention looks or the aesthetics or appearance of an object.

When Do Patents Expire?

Utility Patents

The answer to this question depends on what kind of patent an inventor has. Let's start with utility patents. Utility patents can expire for two reasons. The first reason a utility patent expires is if the patent term has expired. Said differently, a utility patent expires if 20 years have passed since the inventor filed a patent application.

Once a utility patent expires, the invention falls into the public domain, allowing anyone to use, make, and sell the patent invention without having to obtain the express consent of the patent holder. The second reason a utility patent expires if the patent holder does not pay maintenance fees.

Maintenance fees are fees that are required to be paid by a utility patent holder at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years to keep the patent as granted. If a utility patent holder fails to pay these fees, the patent expires and falls into the public domain.

Design Patents

Design patents expire after 15 years pass since the patent office granted the design patent. Design patents can only expire for one reason and that reason is the patent term has expired, meaning that 15 years have passed since the patent office has granted an inventor's design patent application. In the United States, a design patent cannot expire for non-payment of maintenance fees because maintenance fees are not required for design patents, they are only required for utility patents.

Once a design patent expires, the design falls into the public domain, meaning the inventor can no longer stop others from using, making, and selling the patented design under patent law. That said, don't rush to use the once patented design because the design may still be protected under other intellectual property laws, such as copyright law.

What Happens When a Patent on an Invention Expires?

When a patent on an invention expires, the invention falls into the public domaining, meaning that an inventor loses the right to stop others from using, making, and selling the patent invention. The public can basically, use, make, and sell the once patented invention without having to obtain the consent of the patent holder to do so.

When a patent expires, the market is often flooded with copies of the once patented product. That said, just because a patent expires does not mean that the original inventor has to stop making his product, he can continue to do so, but he should expect some competition from others who are now able to make the product without having to worry about the inventor stopping them from doing so.

Can a Patent be Renewed After it Expires?

Whether an inventor can renew a patent after it expires depends on why the patent expired. For example, if a utility patent expires for nonpayment of maintenance fees, a patent holder may be able to renew the patent by paying the outstanding maintenance fees that are due on the patent. However, if a utility patent expires because the patent term has ended, a patent holder cannot renew the patent for the expiration of the patent term. That said, design patents can only expire if the patent term has expired. Once a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed.

What Can an Inventor Do After His Patent Expires?

If an inventor knows that his patent is about to expire or has already expired, he can try to patent an improvement to an invention. The patent office allows inventors to patent improvements to existing inventions. As such, if the inventor has figured out a new and nonobvious way to improve his current invention, he can seek to patent the improvement to his invention by preparing a new patent application and filing it with the USPTO.

Can an Inventor Re-patent an Existing Patent?

Unfortunately, an inventor is not permitted to re-patent an existing patent. This is so because once a patent expires, the invention falls into the public domain, becoming prior art. Prior art prohibits inventors from patenting the same invention. So, if you have a patent on an invention and that patent is expired, you cannot renew it. That said, if you figure out a way to improve the invention, you may be able to obtain an improvement patent on the invention provided that your improvement qualifies for a patent.

How to Check if a Patent has Expired?

Anyone can check if a patent has expired by heading over to the USPTO website and heading over to the patent section. You will see a tool that allows you to conduct a search of the patent database. Enter the number of the patent or the name of the patent that you want to check on and you'll be able to retrieve all of the information about the patent, including the filing date of the patent application, the grant dates, as well as the expiration date of the patent.

Why Does a Patent Expire?

By now, you should know that a patent expires for one of two reasons. Either the patent term has expired or the patent has expired for nonpayment of maintenance fees. Once the patent term expires, the patent cannot be renewed and falls in the public domain. Patent law wants inventors to be able to recoup their expenses for developing the invention, as well as allowing them to profit for a limited time. But, it does not want inventors to restrict others from using the patented technology for too long, as such patents expire. There are other reasons why patents expire that we covered in the article above, so if you're interested in learning more read the section covering why do patents expire. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


How does a utility patent work?

How Does a Utility Patent Work?

How Does a Utility Patent Work?

A utility patent works by allowing inventors to stop others from using, making, selling, and copying their invention for a limited period of time (20 years). The 20-year patent term starts at the time an inventor files his utility patent application with the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office).

Inventors often obtain utility patents on their invention so that they can stop others from copying their invention and selling it. If a party copies an invention that's protected with a utility patent, the inventor will be able to stop that party from making and selling his invention because he has the exclusive right under the patent to do so.

That said, it's not the job of the patent office that issued the patent to stop others from copying and selling the inventor's invention. The inventor has to go out, monitor what his competitors are selling. If the inventor finds someone selling an invention that works the same way as his, he can stop them from doing so by sending them a cease and desist letter. If the party copying and selling the invention does not comply, the inventor can sue them,

The inventor can bring a lawsuit against a party infringing his patent in federal court for patent infringement. The inventor will have to show that he does indeed have a patent and that a party infringed his patent by copying, using, or selling the patented invention. If the inventor is successful, the court may issue a court order, ordering the infringer to stop making, using, and selling the inventor's invention.

How Do Inventors Get a Utility Patent?

Inventors get a utility patent by submitting a utility patent application to the USPTO. Before submitting an application, an inventor has to make certain disclosure to obtain a patent. Inventors have to describe their invention and why it deserves a patent.

To obtain a patent the inventor must show that his invention has a patentable subject matter, is new, nonobvious, and useful. If an inventor fails to satisfy any of these elements, the patent office will reject his patent application.

Although the patent office does not require applicants to be represented by an attorney, many inventors choose to hire an attorney to assist them with the preparation, filing, and prosecution of their patent application.

Once an inventor submits his patent application, the patent office will assign a patent examiner to examine the application. If the patent examiner determines that the application meets all of the requirements for patentability, the application will be approved and the inventor will be issued a patent protecting his invention.

How Long Does a Utility Patent Last?

A utility patent lasts for 20 years from the time an inventor files a nonprovisional patent application with the USPTO. That said, for an inventor to keep a utility patent, he must make periodic maintenance fee payments to the patent office.

Some inventor chooses to file a provisional patent application instead of filing a (regular) nonprovisional utility patent application. In the case where an inventor files a nonprovisional patent application that claims the benefit of an earlier-filed provisional application, the inventor may be able to protect his invention for more than 20 years. However, if an inventor chooses to convert his provisional application into a nonprovisional application, the patent term starts at the time of filing the provisional application.

How Long Do Inventors Have to Wait to Get a Utility Patent?

The USPTO has a huge backlog of patent applications. At any given time, the patent office has over 500,000 pending patent applications, so the wait times are really long for inventors seeking to patent their inventions. According to data from the patent office, it takes approximately 24 months for the patent office to either grant or deny a patent application. The more complex your invention, the more time it usually takes the patent office to examine an application.

That said, some applications will be processed quicker while others may take more time to process. Also, the patent office does offer expedited services called Track One. Inventors can use this expedited service that promises to either grant or deny a patent application within 12 months of filing a patent application. Of course, like all things that sound too good to be true, this service comes at a hefty price tag.

Why Do Inventors Get a Utility Patent?

Inventors get utility patents because they give them control over their invention. Without having a utility patent over an invention anyone could legally copy the invention and sell it without having to obtain the consent of the inventor.

However, once an inventor patents his invention, he will be able to restrict others from using, making, and selling the patented invention for a limited period of time. This period of time lasts for 20 years from the date an inventor files a utility patent application with the patent office.

Also, if an inventor does not patent his invention, another party may patent it before the inventor does. If this happens the party that patents the invention will be able to stop the inventor from using, making, and selling his own invention. This is very bad for the inventor.

This can happen in the United States because patent law awards the person who first patents an invention and not the person who first invents the invention. So, if you're an inventor and you have an awesome invention, patenting it is the best way to protect it. If you don't have the funds to patent it, keep it a secret and don't disclose it to the public. That said, even if you keep it a secret, you risk someone else coming up with the same invention and patenting it.

What is an Example of a Utility Patent?

The following photo is an example of a utility patent of a beverage sleeve. The sleeve was patented for its ability to reduce the transfer of heat or cold to the consumer of a beverage.

Example of a utility patent

Design Patent in Addition to a Utility Patent

In addition to getting a utility patent, inventors may be able to obtain a design patent to protect the same invention. While utility patents protect how an invention works, design patents can be obtained to protect how an invention looks. Design patents protect the aesthetics and appearance of an invention. However, design patents cannot be used to protect the functional aspects of an invention or how an invention works.

Why Do Some Inventors Choose Not to Get a Utility Patent?

Some inventors choose not to apply for and get utility patents because obtaining a patent necessitates disclosing certain technical information about how the invention works, as well as how to make the invention. For some parties, keeping their technology secret is more important than patenting it.

The second reason why many inventors choose not to get a utility patent is the cost associated with obtaining a patent. Patenting some inventions costs more than $15,000. This is a price that is just too much to stomach for some inventors.

In addition to paying to obtain a patent, inventors who obtain a utility patent still have to pay maintenance fees to keep their patents. Maintenance fees are periodic fees that must be made at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years. These payments range from $400 to $7,400. So, having to make these payments often discourages inventors from patenting their invention.

How Does an Inventor Start the Patenting Process?

An inventor starts the patenting process by performing a search to determine whether the invention he wants to patent has been patented by someone else or has been publicly disclosed. If an inventor determines that nothing matches the patent he wants to patent, he can proceed to prepare and file his patent application. Once an applicant files his patent application, he has to wait for the patent office to prosecute the patent application. During this time, the patent office will either grant or deny his patent application.

How Do Utility Patents Work?

Utility patents work by allowing the applicant inventor to stop others from making, using, and selling the patented invention for a limited period of time of 20 years for utility patents. If someone else copies, makes and sells an invention that works similarly to the inventor's invention, the inventor will be able to legally stop them from doing so. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you patent a food idea?

Can You Patent a Food Idea?

Patents allow inventors of new machines, processes, designs, and compositions of matter to protect their intellectual property (IP) with a patent. So, if you have the best idea for a food, can you patent it?

Patents allow inventors to stop others from using, making, and selling a patented invention for a limited period of time, for utility patents, this period of time lasts for 20 years from the date an inventor files his patent application with the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office). So, can you patent a food idea? We will answer this below.

Can You Patent a Food Idea?

The short answer is: no, you cannot patent a food idea because the patent office does not issue patents for a mere idea. You can, however, patent a unique recipe for food or a process for making a food. To patent a unique recipe for food, it must have a patentable subject matter, the food recipe must be new, it must be nonobvious, and it must be useful.

To patent your food idea, you need something more than just an idea for a food, you need to have a recipe for making a specific type of food. If you have a recipe that you want to protect, you should consider filing a utility patent because utility patents protect inventions, as well as compositions of matter.

So, if you have an awesome food recipe that you want to patent, here are a few of the requirements your recipe will have to satisfy: your food recipe must have a patentable subject matter, it should be novel, nonobvious, and useful.

Many people prefer not to patent their recipes because when applying for a patent they would have to disclose all of the ingredients they're using in a recipe, as well as how to combine those ingredients to create the final product. As such, many choose to keep their recipes secret in order to avoid disclosing it in a patent application.

Summary of the Requirement to Patent a Food

Here is a quick summary of the requirements that a food recipe must meet to qualify for a utility patent:

  • The food recipe must contain patentable subject matter,
  • The food must be novel (new),
  • The food must be nonobvious, and
  • The food must be useful

The Food Recipe Must Contain Patentable Subject Matter

As we mentioned, for a food recipe to qualify for patent protection, the invention must have a patentable subject matter. That said, the food recipe must be something for which the patent office grants a patent. Food recipes fall within the scope of patent protection because they qualify as a composition of matter.

Food recipes qualify as a composition of matter because ingredients are combined to produce a final product. Also, you can patent a process for making a food item, in addition to patenting the recipe. This article will focus on patenting the recipe itself and not the process of creating a food item.

The Food Recipe Must Be Novel

The second requirement that an inventor of a food recipe has to satisfy is that the recipe must be novel. Said differently, the recipe has to be new and different from anything that's been publicly disclosed or patented at the patent office.

To satisfy this requirement, the inventor must file a utility patent application within 12 months of publicly disclosing the recipe, selling the food recipe, or offering it for sale. If the recipe has been publicly disclosed for more than 12 months, the patent office will not allow you to patent because it's considered as prior art.

Before patenting an invention, inventors often conduct a patent search to determine that no one has patented the invention or recipe that they want to patent. Also, inventors are encouraged to research public sources to determine whether someone has already published or disclosed the recipe they want to patent.

The Food Recipe Must Be Nonobivous

To get a patent on a food recipe, the recipe must be nonobvious. Said differently, an inventor of a recipe will have to show that an ordinary person familiar in the field of your recipe will not consider your invention (recipe) to be obvious at the time you filed your patent application.

For example, if you've come up with the best recipe for making a Middle Eastern Dish, the patent examiner has to judge your recipe based on whether an ordinary person familiar with Middle Eastern Cuisine would consider your recipe to be obvious. On the other hand, if your food recipe satisfies the nonobviousness requirement, the patent examiner will continue the examination of your patent application.

For your recipe to be nonobvious, it has to combine ingredients that no other recipe has combined before. For example, adding more salt to a known recipe or adding more sugar in pastries will not satisfy the nonobviousness requirements because adding more or less of an ingredient to a known recipe is obvious. The more different your recipe is from anything else that's already out there, the more likely you'll be able to patent it.

The Food Recipe Must Be Useful

The last requirement to patent a food recipe is satisfying the usefulness requirement. To get a patent, the patent office requires inventions to provide some identifiable benefit. While most invention satisfies this requirement with ease, it's important to note that it's required and therefore a statement about the usefulness of your invention should be included in a patent application.

Opting to Protect A Food Recipe as a Trade Secret

Many creators of famous food recipes have opted to protect their creations by protecting them as trade secrets. Protecting a food recipe as a trade secret allows the creator of a recipe to avoid having to disclose all of the ingredients and process that goes into creating a food item. So, if you're thinking about patenting a food idea that you have, ask them about trade secret protection and see what they have to say.

Companies such as Coca Cola have protected their secret formulas for beverages by protecting them as trade secrets instead of patenting them because they don't want to disclose to the public how to make their product. Patents only last for 20 years, so had Coca Cola patented its formula decades ago, people would now be able to make the popular drink that's consumed by billions of people on a daily basis around the world.

Design Patent in Addition to a Utility Patent

If you have product packaging for the food you want to patent, you may be able to protect it with a design patent. Design patents allow inventors and creators of new designs to protect the appearance of a product for a limited period of time. So, if you have product packaging that has a new and unique appearance that's attractive for your customers, you should ask your attorney about patenting it.

Preparing and Filing Your Patent Application

Once you've determined that you have a food recipe that's eligible for patent protection, you have to prepare a utility patent application. Although the patent office allows and assists inventors in preparing their patent application, the patent office recommends that applicants hire an attorney to prepare and file their patent application. This is so because the application process is a complicated one and having an attorney is almost a must for more people who don't have experience patenting inventions.

If you can't afford to hire an attorney, consider the option of hiring a patent agent instead. Patent agents are licensed by the USPTO and they are able to assist inventors in preparing their patent application, filing it with the patent office, and responding to any inquiries from the patent office. So, if you don't have the budget for an attorney, consider a patent agent.

Patenting a Food Idea

By now, it should be apparent that patenting an idea for a good is not possible. To patent food, you must have some sort of recipe and instructions on how to create the food you want to patent. Merely having an idea for making a certain food is not enough to get it patented. Also, adding more or less of a commonly used ingredient is not enough to get you a patent. You have to have a recipe that's nonobvious, something that no one has thought of making before. That said, if you have a food idea that you want to patent, contact a patent attorney and see what they have to say. If you have any general questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.


How long does it take to get a utility patent?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Utility Patent?

The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) issues utility patents to inventors to protect processes, machines, and compositions of matter. Utility patents last for 20 years from the date an inventor files a patent application with the patent office. We often get asked: How long does it take me to get a utility patent approved by the patent office? We will answer this question below.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Utility Patent?

According to data from the USPTO, it currently takes 24.2 months for an inventor to get a utility patent. Please note that some applications take longer while others take less. The patent office currently has 552,349 pending utility patent applications. As you can probably tell from these numbers the patent office has a large number of unexamined patent applications that it has to get to. So, if you've filed a utility patent application please be patient.

According to patent office data, applicants for utility patents should receive their first office action within 16.2 months of filing a nonprovisional patent application. That said, if you don't receive your first office action within 16.2 don't panic because this is the average, some applications take longer while some take less time.

Why Do Inventors Apply For a Utility Patent?

Inventors apply for utility patents because they allow them to stop others from using, making, and selling their invention for a limited period of time. For utility patents, this limited-time lasts for 20 years from the time an inventor files a utility patent application.

This allows inventors to be the only ones making and selling the patented invention. This gives them an advantage against their competitors because the patent holder can stop them from making and selling the same or similar product. Also, if someone seeks to patent the same invention, the patent office will prohibit them from doing so.

Inventors patent their inventions because they can profit them, either by selling the patented product, selling the patent entirely, or licensing the patent for others to use.

Some inventors choose to license their patents to others because it's often cheaper to do so instead of bringing the product to market and having to spend money marketing it. Instead, the inventor licenses it to a third party that already has access to customers willing to purchase the patented product.

Time It Takes to Complete The Steps to Get a Patent

1) Performing a Patent Search

The first step an inventor must take before applying for a patent is conducting a patent search to ensure that that the invention that the applicant wants to patent has not been publicly disclosed and that no one has patented the same invention. This is so because patent law requires the invention to be new, unlike anything else that's out there. If an applicant does not know how to perform a patent search, he should contact an attorney to assist him with performing this search. A patent search can take anywhere between 1 week to 4 weeks, depending on the invention.

2) Preparing Your Utility Patent Application

Once your attorney performs a patent search by searching the USPTO patent database and other public sources, if everything looks good, your attorney will proceed to prepare your utility patent application. The time it will take your attorney to draft your patent application differs from one invention to another, often depending on the complexity of the invention to be patented.

That said, while the patent office does not require applicants for utility patents to be represented by an attorney, the patent office recommends that patent applicants hire an attorney to assist them with the preparation and filing of their patent application. This is so because a patent application has to comply with many rules and making even seemingly minor mistakes could get your patent application rejected.

If you don't have the money to hire a patent lawyer, you do have the option of hiring a patent agent. Patent agents are licensed by the USPTO to assist applicants with their patent applications. They charge less than patent attorneys while performing many of the same functions that patent attorneys do.

3) Filing Your Utility Patent Application

After preparing a utility patent application, an applicant must file it with the USPTO. This can be done online by paying the required USPTO fees. Once an applicant files his patent application with the patent office, he will be able to immediately market his invention as patent pending. Typically, once an applicant submits a utility patent application, the patent office issues a serial number that can be used to track the status of the application.

4) Time It Takes the Patent Office to Grant or Deny a Patent Application

Once an applicant files his patent application with the USPTO, the patent office estimates that applicants should expect to receive their first office action with 17 months of filing their patent application and that the patent office will either approve or deny a patent application with 24 months of an applicant filing his utility patent application.

If you don't hear back from the patent office within these time frames, don't freak out because some applications take longer while others may take less time to work their way through the patent office.

Factors Affecting How Long It Takes To Get a Utility Patent

The biggest factor affecting how long it takes to get a utility patent is the art unit or technology group a patent falls under. Said differently, how long it takes to get a utility patent depends on the field of the invention and which examination group an invention is sent to. The time it takes to get a patent depends on how many applications are pending at the art unit to which the application is sent to. Some art units are more congested than others.

The second important factor that affects how long it takes to get a utility patent is whether an applicant filed a provisional application or a nonprovisional application. Provisional patent applications are not examined until an inventor files a regular, nonprovisional patent application within 12 months of filing a provisional application.

The third factor is whether an applicant submits a regular patent application or applies for one using the USPTO Track One Option. Track One is a priority filing option that promises to examine a patent application and provide an applicant with either a rejection or approval within 12 months of filing a utility patent application. That said, Track One priority filing costs between $1,000 to $4,000 in addition to the regular filing fees charged by the patent office.

Marketing Your Invention or Product As Patent Pending

As soon as an inventor files his utility patent application with the patent office, he will be able to market his product or invention as patent pending. While your patent application is pending you can market or sell your invention while including the patent-pending designation on the product or packaging. Some applicants use this as a marketing method because it's a selling point for many customers.

That said, although an applicant is free to market his product as patent-pending, he does not yet have the power to stop others from using, making, selling, and offering to sell the patent-pending product until the patent office grants his patent application. This is so because the inventor does not yet have a patent to enforce, he only has a pending patent application.

If the patent office grants the inventor's patent application, the patent holder will then be able to restrict others from making and selling the patented product for 20 years. The 20-year patent term begins at the time an applicant files his utility patent application.

Time It Takes to Get a Utility Patent

By now, you should know that it takes the patent office approximately 24 months to either grant or deny a patent application. The time it takes to get a patent depends on which art unit an application is assigned to and whether an applicant chooses the Track One priority filing option. According to the USPTO, applicants should expect the first office action with 17 months of filing their patent application. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


Can you selling a patent?

Can You Sell a Patent?

If you've spent the time and money developing and patenting an invention, you might be wondering how to profit from it. Inventors often have a hard time marketing the product or invention they've patented, so they explore the options of what they can do with their patent.

Patents grant inventors the right to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented invention for a limited period of time. In the case of utility patents, these rights last for 20 years and for design patents, they last for 15 years. So, can you sell your patent? We will answer this question below.

Can You Sell a Patent?

Yes, an inventor can sell a patent and transfer ownership to a party by executing an assignment agreement that transfers his rights to the patent to another party. Once a person sells his patent and assigns his rights to a party, he loses any rights and interests in the patent. Once a patent is sold and assigned, the inventor will no longer be able to stop others from making and selling the patented invention.

Inventors often sell their patent because they want to profit from the work and money they spent developing and making the invention they've patented. Instead of selling a patent, some inventors opt to license the patent to others.

By licensing the patent, an inventor allows a party to use and make the invention in exchange for an agreed-upon fee. The terms of a licensing agreement set the scope of what the licensee can do with the patented invention.

Inventors should consider licensing their patent instead of selling it because if an inventor licenses his patent to others instead of selling it, he retains his rights in the patent invention while allowing others to merely use and make the invention. So, if you have a patent that you want to sell, ask your attorney about the option of licensing it instead of outright selling it. This is so because once a patent is sold and assigned, the inventor retains no rights to the patent. The assignee becomes the holder of patent rights.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Selling a Patent

The main benefit of selling a patent is the cash influx that such a sale might bring in for the person or company owning the patent. The amount a patent sells for depends on the value of the invention, as well as how broadly the patent protects the invention.

The person or business selling the patent may be doing it to take the profits from the sale and investing it in other parts of their business. While selling a patent puts cash in the pocket of the inventor, the drawback of selling a patent is that the assignor (holder of a patent transferring his rights away) loses any rights over the patented invention.

The second benefit of selling a patent is that the inventor does not have to spend the time and money marketing the patented product or invention. Selling a patent allows inventors to quickly recoup the costs associated with making the invention and patenting it. Depending on the value of the patent, the seller of a patent might even make a nice profit from the sale.

That said, some inventors regret selling their inventions, especially in situations where the invention becomes super popular, generating millions of dollars in profits. In such a situation, the inventor has no recourse because assignments are permanent cannot be undone without the assignee (purchaser or person who got the patent rights) agreeing to rescind (undo) the assignment and transfer the rights back to the assignor. An assignee who's making a ton of profit is unlikely going to give back a patent.

So, if you're thinking about selling your patent, take a step back and ask yourself whether your patent solves a problem that no one else has been able to solve? If it does ask for a price that's fair to you or consider licensing it instead of outright selling it. More on this below.

Consider Licensing Your Patent Instead of Selling It

If you have a truly innovative product that does something that no other product dos, consider licensing it instead of selling it. This is because licensing will allow you to profit from your invention without having to give up your rights under the patent.

Licensing agreements spell out the terms and scope of rights that the licensee will enjoy under the agreement. Such terms usually include what part of the invention can be used, the geographical location in which the licensee can use and make the invention, as well as an agreed-upon fee for the right to make, use, or sell the invention.

That said, the return on a licensing agreement depends on the success of your invention. If the licensee is able to market and sell the patented invention, you will earn money, usually based on a percentage basis.

For example, if you agreed upon a 15% royalty on every product sold and the licensee sells 1000 units at $1000 each, you will get 15% of $1,000,000, making your share $150,000. That said, this assumes that the product was successful. In the event that the product is not successful, the licensor makes nothing.

How Much Can You Sell Your Patent For?

How much you can sell your patent depends on if there is a market for your invention and whether your patented invention solves a problem that no other invention solves. For example, pharmaceutical companies that patent medications often rake in huge amounts of profit because the medicines that they invented treat diseases that no other medication treats. So, if you have an invention that solves a problem that no other invention does, you should expect to make a decent profit from selling your invention.

The value of your patent also depends on how broad and powerful your patent is. Not all patents are created equal. A patent that protects the broad applications of a patent is more valuable than a patent that's narrowly drafted. The more protection your patent has over your invention, the more valuable it becomes to potential buyers.

Drafting A Sales Agreement and Patent Assignment Agreement

If you don't have experience drafting sales agreement and patent assignment agreements, you should hire an attorney to prepare both agreements for you. You should also make it clear to your attorney what percentage of ownership of your patent you want to transfer ownership for. Attorneys can draft assignment agreements that transfer 100% of your rights to the patent while others can specify a certain percentage, such as 50%. Talk about this with your attorney and don't be afraid to ask questions about the consequences of executing an assignment agreement. The assignment agreement has to comply with some patent law requirements, so having an attorney prepare your assignment agreement is of utmost importance.

That said, once the parties execute the assignment agreement, it has to be filed with the USPTO to reflect the assignment of interest in the patent. Assignments can be registered online using the EPAS (Electronic Patent Assignment System). The patent office currently charges $35 for assignments, so the fee is quite small when compared to other fees that the patent office charges.

Selling a Patent

By now, you should know that you can sell your patent, however before you rush to sell it, consider the option of licensing it. Consult with your attorney and ask them what route you should take. Every situation is different, so there isn't a once size fits all solution. If you have a patent on an invention that is unique and has the potential for success, your attorney might recommend that you license it. If you have an invention that's unique but doesn't quite have a market, your attorney may recommend that you sell it to recoup your expenses for developing it and patenting it. Each situation is different and only your attorney can evaluate your situation.

If you choose to sell your patent, your attorney may be able to help you evaluate the appropriate price for such a sale. Hiring an experienced patent attorney is your best option to get the right price for selling your patent. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


Can you patent a supplement?

Can You Patent a Supplement Formula?

If you've just finished developing an awesome supplement, you might be wondering how you can protect your new supplement formula. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers inventors of new compositions of matter, including formulas, the ability to protect them with a patent.

Patents allow inventors to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented invention (supplement) for a limited period of time. For utility patents, the protection lasts for 20 years from the day an inventor files a utility patent application with the patent office. So, can you protect the formula for your supplement by patenting it? We will answer this question below.

Can You Patent a Supplement Formula?

The short answer is yes, you can patent a supplement formula, but to obtain a patent, the supplement formula must satisfy the patenting requirements set forth by the patent office. To patent a supplement formula, you must show that your supplement formula contains patentable subject matter, the formula is novel, it's nonobvious, and the formula is useful.

That said, two of the biggest obstacles an inventor will face while seeking to patent a supplement formula is showing that the formula is novel (new) and that it's nonobvious. This is so because adding a single ingredient or two is usually insufficient to make a supplement formula patentable. More on this below. So, let's discuss the requirements for patenting a supplement formula.

The Supplement Formula Must Have Patentable Subject Matter

The patent office requires applicants for utility patents to have an invention that has patentable subject matter. Said differently, the supplement formula you want to patent must be the type of invention for which the patent office offers a patent. For supplement formulas, the mixture of ingredients qualifies as a composition of matter that satisfies this requirement. That said, once you've satisfied this requirement, you still have three other requirements that have to be met.

The Supplement Formula Must Be Novel

To patent a supplement formula, patent law requires the supplement formula to be novel (new). This basically comes down to having a supplement formula that has never been publicly disclosed or patented. When we say the formula has to be new, we are not talking about individual ingredients having to be new, but rather that the combination of ingredients that go into the formula has to be new.

Your supplement can use ingredients that are used in other supplements, but you have to add something to your supplement to make it different than anything else that's out there. For example, adding more caffeine to a supplement is unlikely going to be enough to patent a supplement because many supplements already contain caffeine.

That said, if you're able to prove that your supplement is new and unique because it has some unexpected ingredients, you might be able to patent it if you can satisfy the remaining two requirements.

The Supplement Formula Must Be Nonobvious

To get a supplement patented, the applicant must show that the formula is nonobvious. That is, the applicant must show that the formula was not obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the field of supplements at the time the applicant files his utility patent application.

When determining obviousness, the patent office looks at the supplement formula from the point of view of an ordinary person skilled in the field of the supplement. If that person would have deemed the formula to be obvious, the patent examiner will not allow the formula to be patented. However, if the patent examiner determines that the formula was not obvious, he may allow it to be patented so long as it satisfies the remaining requirements.

Usually, adding more or less of the same ingredient is not sufficient to make a supplement formula nonobvious. For example, adding more caffeine to an energy supplement formula is unlikely to make it nonobvious because a person skilled in the field of supplements may deem it to be an obvious thing to do.

The nonobviousness requirement may well be the most difficult hurdle that a person seeking to patent a supplement may face. To get a supplement formula patented, the combination of ingredients has to be one that no one has thought of doing. So, adding something new and unexpected will place the applicant in a better position to patent his supplement formula.

Developing a new ingredient and adding it to a supplement makes a supplement formula more likely to be successfully patented. In short, to improve the chances of patenting a supplement formula, your supplement should incorporate unexpected ingredients or newly developed ingredients because this contributes to the nonobviousness of the formula to be patented.

The Supplement Formula Must Be Useful

To patent a supplement formula, the formula must be useful. Said differently, the supplement must provide the end-user with some identifiable benefit. For example, if a supplement formula boosts energy or provides users with more nutrients or vitamins, this could be enough to satisfy the usefulness requirement.

Supplements are rarely challenged on the grounds that they are not useful. However, when preparing a utility patent application, the applicant should explain the usefulness of the supplement, as well as how it benefits the user and how it should be used. That said, the usefulness requirement is usually easily satisfied and as long as the patent application is properly prepared, this element shouldn't be an issue.

Hire an Attorney

If you want to patent your new supplement formula, you should contact a patent attorney who specializes in supplement patenting. Many patent attorneys offer free consultations, so you can explain to them what type of supplement you want to patent and they should be able to advise you on how to proceed with patenting your supplement.

If the attorney says that you have a good shot at patenting your supplement, you should have them prepare and file a patent application on your behalf. Patenting your supplement is a complicated process, so having an attorney who understands what needs to be done to obtain a patent is your best option.

That said, if you can't hire a patent attorney, just know that you have the option of hiring a patent agent. Patent agents are qualified and licensed by the patent office to assist inventors in patenting inventions, such as supplements. So, find one, contact him and explain the details of your situation to him and they should be able to give you information on how to proceed with the patenting process.

That said, the patent office allows inventors to patent their invention without an attorney or patent agent. However, the patent office recommends that you hire an attorney to assist you with patenting your invention because there are many requirements and hurdles that only an attorney will know how to overcome.

Why Should You Patent Your Supplement Formula?

Inventors often opt to patent their supplement formula because a patent gives them the ability to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented supplement formula for a limited period of time. Utility patents offer 20 years of protection that starts from the day an applicant files his utility patent application with the USPTO.

During the 20-year patent term, you will be able to be the only person making and selling the patented supplement formula. Note, however, that you cannot restrict others from making and selling the formula until the patent office grants your utility patent application.

If another party copies and selling your patented formula, you can send them a cease and desist letter ordering to stop their infringing activities. However, if they don't stop, it's your job to sue them for patenting infringement. The USPTO will not police your patent for you, you have to file a lawsuit and if you're successful, the court will give you a court order, ordering the party that copied your supplement formula to stop making and selling your patented supplement.

Patenting a Supplement Formula

By now, you should know that some supplements and supplement formulas can be patented at the USPTO. However, to patent a supplement, the inventor's formula must satisfy the requirements we covered, as well as properly preparing a utility patent application, filing it with the patent office, and paying the required patent office fees. That said, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you get a design and utility patent?

Can You Get a Design and Utility Patent?

You've got an invention and you want to patent it, so you're wondering what type of protection you need. We are here to help explain what types of patents the USPTO offers and which ones are right for your invention. The patent office offers both utility patents and design patents.

Utility patents protect how an invention, machines, or process works while design patents protect new and unique designs, as well as the aesthetics of an invention. So, can you get both a design and utility patent on your invention? We will answer this question below.

Can You Get a Design and Utility Patent?

Yes, some inventors can get both a design and utility patent on their invention, however, the invention must qualify for both a design and utility patent. So, what makes an invention qualify for both a utility and design patent? If you have an invention that has a functional element, as well as a unique design, you may just be able to protect it with both forms of intellectual property (IP) protection.

For example, if you have developed a new type of foldable smartphone, you may be able to protect the functional aspects of the phone by applying for a utility patent and if it has a unique look, you can apply for a design patent.

Utility patents and design patents can be filed for the same product, however, design patents will only protect the aesthetics of your invention or product and not the functional elements. Utility patents are appropriate to protect the functional aspects of your invention.

Please note that if you want the protection of both a utility patent and a design patent, an applicant will have to apply for both forms of protection separately by filing a utility patent application and a design patent application. Having both types of IP protection makes an invention more valuable because it's more strongly protected from being copied.

A utility patent will allow the patent holder to stop others from using, making, and selling an invention with similar function and a design patent will allow the applicant to stop others from making, using, and selling an invention with a similar design, aesthetic, or look. This allows the applicant to reduce his competition in the market by restricting others from making and selling his patented invention.

Obtaining a design patent for your invention is usually much less expensive and easier than obtaining a utility patent, making applying for a design patent a good idea if your invention has a unique aesthetic. Overlapping protection is always favored over single patent protection.

Scope of Protection

We all know that having a patent over an invention is almost always better than not having one. As previously mentioned, design patents only protect the appearance of a product and not the functional aspects of an invention. So, while a design patent protects the inventor from parties producing a knockoff that looks exactly the same, it does not protect the inventor from parties producing a similarly functioning product that looks different.

The beauty of utility patents is that they prevent others from making products that function the same way so that even if the product looks different, the patent holder will still be able to take action against the infringing party if they produce a product that merely works the same way.

That said, if you've patented your product, you can't just sit on the sidelines and expect the patent office to protect your invention from being copied. It's the inventor's job to look for parties that are infringing upon their patent and bring lawsuits against them.

If an inventor finds a party infringing upon his patent, he can sue them in federal court for patent infringement. If the inventor is successful in his lawsuit, he will be able to obtain a court order, ordering the infringer to stop copying or selling the patented invention.

Utility Patent Benefits Summary

  • Protect how an invention works
  • Protect how an invention functions
  • Ability to stop others from making an invention that works the same as the inventor's invention
  • Allow the inventor to exclusively profit from making and selling his invention
  • Stop others from copying the functional aspect of an inventor's invention

Design Patent Benefits Summary

  • Protect how an invention looks
  • Protect the unique design of an invention
  • Ability to stop others from copying an inventor's unique design
  • Ability to profit from the unique appearance of an invention for a limited period of time

That said, an inventor will not be able to stop others from making an invention with a similar function or look until the patent office grants an inventor's patent application. Without having an issued patent, an applicant cannot sue other parties for infringing upon his patent because he doesn't have one yet. However, obtaining a patent is still a smart decision because, in the long-term, an applicant will be able to stop others from making and using his patented invention.

Utility Patent Infringement vs Design Patent Infringement

If an inventor has a patent on his invention or product, he can sue any party that infringes upon his patent. If an inventor has a utility patent over an invention that has been copied, he can sue the party that copies his invention. To succeed in a lawsuit against the infringer, the patent holder will have to show that a party has made, sold, or offered for sale a product that infringes upon the patent claims of the patent holder's patent.

With a design patent, an inventor is able to sue a party that infringes upon his design by suing them for patent infringement. In a lawsuit for design patent infringement, a patent holder can show that infringement has occurred by placing his design next to the infringing design and showing the similarities between the patented design and the infringing design.

Obtaining a Utility Patent and a Design Patent

Obtaining a utility patent is a complex process that requires the help of an experienced patent attorney. While the patent office allows inventors to represent themselves in patenting their invention, they recommend that inventors hire an attorney to assist them with the preparation and prosecution of their patent application.

Design patents are easier and less expensive to obtain than utility patents, however, the patent office does have some stringent requirements on how to prepare a design patent application, so it's recommended that applicants seek the help of an attorney to prepare and file their patent application.

If you don't have the money to hire an attorney to obtain a patent, you can explore the option of hiring a patent agent to assist you with your patent application. Patent agents are qualified and licensed by the USPTO to assist inventors in patenting their inventions.

How Long Do Design Patents and Utility Patents Last?

If an applicant applies for both a utility patent and a design patent, he should be aware of the fact that the patent term of each of these patents is different. Utility patents last for 20 years from the time an inventor files a nonprovisional patent application with the patent office and design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application. So, just be aware that design patent protection may expire before the utility patent expires on your invention.

Attorney

We are offering general legal information and our interpretation of the law, so if you have any questions about your specific situation, please contact a patent attorney and discuss your invention with them. Attorneys are experienced and will be able to offer the best advice for your specific situation.

Getting Both a Utility and Design Patent

By now, you should be aware that you can apply for both a utility patent and a design patent to protect the same invention. The utility patent will protect the functional aspects of your invention, i.e., how your invention works and how it's used and a design patent will protect the design or appearance of your invention, i.e., how your invention looks.

So, if you have an invention that qualifies for both types of patents, ask your attorney if you should apply for both forms of intellectual property protection. The more forms of protection you have on your invention, the more valuable it becomes. That said, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


when does a utility patent expire?

When Does a Utility Patent Expire?

The Patent Office grants inventors a patent over new inventions, processes, and designs. We often get the question: when does a utility patent expire? We will answer this question below.

When Does a Utility Patent Expire?

A utility patent expires 20 years after an applicant files his utility patent application with the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office). For applicants who file a nonprovisional patent application, the 20-year patent term starts at the moment of filing the nonprovisional application.

That said, an applicant cannot enforce his rights under a patent until the patent office grants his patent application. Prior to being granted a patent, an applicant cannot stop others from using, making, and selling the invention. However, you will be able to do all of those things when the patent office grants your patent application.

Patent Term If You Filed a Provisional Patent Application First

Here is some quick information for those of you who first filed a provisional application. Provisional patent applications do not become patent, so to get a patent, an applicant has 12 months to file a nonprovisional patent application to get a patent.

For applicants who first file a provisional patent application and later file a nonprovisional application that relates back to the provisional patent application, the patent term starts at the time of filing the nonprovisional application and not the provisional application.

However, very rarely applicants choose to convert a provisional application into a nonprovisional application instead of filing a nonprovisional application that claims the early priority date of the provisional application. When an applicant chooses to convert a provisional application, the patent term begins at the time of filing the provisional application.

As such, almost all applicants choose to file a nonprovisional patent application that claims the benefit of an earlier-filed provisional application. Doing so extends the patent term by one year.

Adjusting the Expiration Date of Your Patent

The patent office in some limited circumstances offers what is called a patent term adjustment. This allows applicants to push back the expiration of their patent, but it only applies in certain limited circumstances, such as when the patent office takes too long to prosecute (either grant or deny) a patent application.

The first circumstance is a situation where the patent office does not issue its first office action with 14 months of an applicant filing his patent application. The delay in time to issue this office action is added to the patent term.

The second circumstance is if the patent office fails to issue an office action within 4 months of the applicant submitting a response to the patent office. The delay in time to submit the office action is added to the application's patent term.

The third circumstance allows the applicant to extend his patent term if it takes the patent office more than 3 years to grant his patent application. The patent office estimates that most patent applications should not take more than 3 years from the time an applicant files a nonprovisional patent application until the time a patent is granted, so if the patent office takes longer, an applicant can extend the term of his patent.

Note: Most of the delays that add to the patent term are ones that are caused by the patent office taking too long to prosecute and grant a patent. So, if the applicant is the cause of the delay, the USPTO is unlikely to extend the term of a patent.

Can a Patent Holder Renew an Expired Patent?

Unfortunately, no. A patent cannot be renewed once it expires. Utility patents are usually good for 20 years from the time an applicant files a provisional patent application. Once the patent term expires, the patented invention becomes part of the public domain. Once it becomes part of the public domain anyone can use, make, or sell the invention without having to obtain the express consent of the patent holder. If you want to buy the right to an expired patent, check out this article.

Some patents expire not because the patent term has ended, but because a patent holder has not paid the required maintenance fees. Unlike other patents, to keep a utility patent active, an inventor must pay maintenance fees at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years. If the inventor fails to pay these fees, the patent expires.

How Do You Find Out When a Patent Will Expire?

You can find out when a utility patent expires by adding 20 years to the filing date of the patent. You can find the filing date of a patent application by looking up the patent using the USPTO Patent Search Tool here. After you find the patent you're looking for, click on the patent number that appears on the left-hand side. A page will then open displaying the filing date of the patent. Add 20 years to the patent date and you'll know when it expires. For example, if a patent has a filing date of 01/01/2000, you will know that it should expire on 01/01/2020.

Can a Patent Be Renewed After 20 Years?

No, a utility cannot be renewed after 20 years. After the patent term expires, you will no longer be able to stop others from using, making, and selling your invention. It will fall into the public domain and anyone can copy it and sell the invention without having to obtain the express consent of the patentor.

Paying Patent Maintenance Fees

Every utility patent owner must pay maintenance fees to the USPTO to maintain his granted patent. Some people often refer to maintenance fees as renewal fees, but in the legal world, they're more properly know as maintenance fees. If an owner of a utility patent does not pay the required maintenance fees, his patent will expire for non-payment.

Patent owners have to pay maintenance fees at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years. If the patent owner fails to pay the fees, the patent expires. However, the patent office does give inventors a 6-month grace period to pay the maintenance fees.

However, if you choose to pay the fees after being late, the patent office will charge you a late fee. In the event that you do not pay the maintenance fees after the expiration of the patent for 6 months, the patent will expire.

That said, utility patents are the only type of patent that requires the payment of maintenance fees. Holders of design patents and plant patents are not required to pay maintenance fees to keep the status of their patent as granted (active).

If Your Patent Expires, Can You Reinstate It?

The answer depends on why your patent expired. If your patent expired because the patent term ended, you cannot renew your patent. However, if your patent expired for non-payment, you might be able to renew it. As we mentioned in the paragraph above, if you have a patent that expired for nonpayment, you can pay the fees and the expired patent will return to a granted state, allowing you to continue to stop others from making and selling your invention.

Do Utility Patents Expire?

By now, you're probably aware that utility patents expire for two main reasons. The first reason they expire is that the patent term ends or 20 years have passed since the inventor filed his nonprovisional patent application.

The second main reason why patents expire is for the non-payment of utility patent maintenance fees, which are required to keep the patent in a granted state. If the patent expires because the patent term has ended, you can't do anything to renew it. It becomes part of the public domain and people will be allowed to use, make, and sell the once patented invention without obtaining the express consent of the inventor.

If however, the patent expires due to nonpayment of maintenance fees, the inventor has a 6-month window to pay the fees and late fees to reinstate the patent. That said, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you patent an idea for a product?

Can You Patent an Idea For a Product?

The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) offers inventors of new machines, processes, designs, and compositions of matters a monopoly over their invention for a limited period of time. The length of the monopoly depends on the type of patent that the inventor applies for. For example, utility patents last for 20 years whereas design patents last for 15 years. So, can you patent an idea for a product? And what type of patent do you need? We will answer these questions below.

Can You Patent an Idea For a Product?

The short answer is: no, you cannot patent an idea for a product, you must have something that's more than just an idea. To patent your invention, you should, at a minimum, be able to explain how the invention works, as well as how the invention can be used. To get a design patent, an inventor must have a design that's applied to an object. We will go into more detail about what can be patented below.

Utility Patents

To get a utility patent on a product, an inventor must have something that's more than just an idea. An inventor does not necessarily have to have a working prototype, but the invent must be able to explain how to make the product, as well as explain how it works.

Utility patents are the most commonly applied for patent at the patent office, making up more than 90% of applied for patents. So, if you have a functional product, the best option is to apply for a utility patent to protect it from being copied by others.

A utility patent offers inventors a limited monopoly over their invention, allowing them to stop others from using, making, selling, and offering the patented product for a limited period of time. Utility patents offer 20 years of protection that starts from the day the applicant files his utility patent application at the patent office.

To obtain a utility patent, the inventor has to prove a few things. Among the things that an inventor has to show to obtain a utility is that the invention has a patentable subject matter, the invention is novel (new), the invention is nonobvious, and the invention is useful. If an applicant can show these four things, the applicant might be able to obtain a utility patent.

1) Patentable Subject Matter

To be able to patent your product, the product must have patentable subject matter. Said differently, the product you want to patent be something that the patent office offers a patent for. The patent office allows inventors to patent things such as machines, processes, compositions of matter, and products that perform some useful function. Here are some examples of things that can be patented:

  • Nail clippers
  • Tools
  • Computers
  • Cosmetics
  • Formulas
  • Instruments

That said, once an applicant shows that his invention falls within patentable subject matter, he must still satisfy the following three elements.

2) The Product You Want to Patent Must Be Novel

To patent an invention, the patent office requires the invention or product to be novel, that is, the patent office requires an invention to be 100% new, something that no one else has ever patented and has never been publicly disclosed. For an invention to be new, the inventor must have never sold the invention, offered it for sale, or publicly disclosed it.

If an inventor has publicly disclosed his invention, the patent office offers a 12 month grace period in which the inventor must file either a provisional or nonprovisional (regular) utility patent application. If more than 12 months have passed since the public disclosure of the invention, the patent office will not allow the inventor to patent his invention.

To determine whether an invention is new, applicants typically conduct a patent office database search to see if someone else has patented an invention that's similar to theirs. Conducting a simple google search, in addition to a patent database search, can be a good way to see if someone else has publicly disclosed the invention that an applicant wants to patent.

3) The Product You Want to Patent Must Be Nonobvious

After determining that an invention is new, an applicant has to show that his invention is nonobvious. Said differently, the applicant will have to show that an ordinary person familiar with the field of your product or invention will not consider your invention to be obvious at the time an inventor files his patent application.

The obviousness inquiry is a subjective one that the patent examiner performs. If the patent examiner concludes that your invention is obvious, he might reject your patent application, on the other hand, if he finds that your invention is not obvious, he will continue his examination of your patent application.

If your invention solves a problem that no one else has solved before, this will support a finding that your invention is not obvious because no one else has solved the problem. The more different your product is from anything that publicly exists, the more likely the patent examiner will consider your invention to be nonobvious.

4) The Product You Want to Patent is Useful

To patent a product, the patent office requires the product to be useful. Said differently, the product has to provide some identifiable benefit. Utility patent applications are rarely rejected on the grounds that they are not useful. However, is still important to remember to include a thorough and broad description of your invention.

For example, if you're patenting a new type of superior brake pads for cars, the useful purpose might, for example, be that they help cars stop faster in order to avoid accidents. This example will assist the patent examiner in making a positive determination that your invention or product is indeed useful and should, therefore, qualify for a patent.

5) Preparing and Filing Your Utility Patent Application

If you can satisfy the elements that we just listed, you can contact a patent attorney to prepare and file a utility patent application for your invention. Attorneys are best suited to advise you on whether to proceed with patenting your invention or product. Every case is fact-specific, so contacting an attorney is the best way to start the process of patenting your invention.

We understand that not everyone has the money to hire an attorney, but the good news is that you aren't required by the patent office to hire one to patent your invention. You have the option of hiring a patent agent, who are individuals licensed by the patent office to assist inventors in preparing and filing their patent application, as well as dealing with the patent office to get an invention patented.

Design Patents

In addition to obtaining a utility patent, your product may also qualify for a design patent. Design patents allow inventors to patent a product that has a new and unique appearance or aesthetic. Design patents allow inventors to stop others from using, making, and selling a product that has a similar design to the one that you've patented.

To get a design patent, an inventor of a design will have to show that his design is unique and no one else has ever patented the same design. Design patents are much easier to obtain than utility patent and they're also cheaper to obtain. That said, utility patents offer way more protection than design patents.

Like with utility patents, to patent a design, no one else must have patented the design that you invented. An applicant should perform a patent search to see if someone else has patented a design that the same as or similar to the one that they want to patent. If no else has patented the design, the applicant can proceed to prepare and file their design patent application.

As part of a design patent application, an inventor will have to include drawings of the design, the drawings must follow the rules that the patent office has set forth for patent drawings. These rules include creating drawings using black ink on white paper. An applicant should include multiple drawings of the entire design from different angles and sides.

Also, it's important to note that you can only patent one design per design patent application. If you submit multiple designs in the same application, the patent office will force you to choose one of the designs to proceed with. So, if you want to patent your design, your best option is to contact an attorney and ask them to assist you with the application.

The patent office has a lot of rules regarding how the application should be prepared, as well as standards for the drawings that must be followed. Making even seemingly minor mistakes can get your application rejected, costing you more money down the road to amend the application.

Patenting an Idea for a Product

By now, you should be aware that the patent office does not allow inventors to patent a mere idea. To get a patent, you must be able to explain to the patent office how to make the invention, as well as how the invention can be used. Inventors can obtain a utility patent for their invention, as well as a design patent if their invention has a new and unique design.

Having both types of intellectual property protection on your invention makes your invention or product more valuable. So, if you have an invention that has the potential for success, ask your attorney if you should apply for both a utility patent, as well as a design patent. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can cosmetics be patented?

Can Cosmetics Be Patented?

Whether you have invented your own cosmetic or you've been to Sephora, you may be wondering whether cosmetics can be patented? Patents are a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that allows inventors to monopolize their invention for a limited period of time, usually for 20 years from the time an inventor files his utility patent application with the patent office. So, can cosmetics be patented? We will answer this below.

Can Cosmetics Be Patented?

Yes, cosmetics can be patented but they have to meet the requirements set forth by the patent office to be eligible for a patent. The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) has dedicated an entire class to Cosmetics.

Cosmetics are usually made by combining several different, known ingredients to make a new compound. So, to get a patent on your cosmetic, you will have to show that your combination of ingredients qualifies as patentable subject matter, your formula is new and unique, useful, and nonobvious.

For a company or person to patent a cosmetic, they must disclose everything that is involved in making the cosmetic to obtain the best patent protection possible. That means disclosing the specific ingredients and compounds that go into making a cosmetic.

Some companies are reluctant to disclose the secret sauce that goes into their cosmetics. So, if you're someone who has a cosmetic on their hands, just know that you'll have to disclose everything in your patent application, which will be made public if the patent office grants your patent.

So, why do people choose to go through the hassle of patenting their cosmetic? They choose to do so because if they're successful in patenting their cosmetics, they will be granted a monopoly over the cosmetic.

Said differently, they will be able to stop everyone else from using, making, selling, or offering to sell the patented cosmetic for a limited period of time. For utility patents, this period of time is 20 years from the date an inventor files a utility patent application for the cosmetic.

That said, while patents grant you the right to exclude others from making and selling your patented cosmetic formulation, it's up to you to enforce your rights because the patent office is going to go out and stop others from making a product that's the same as yours, you have to find copycats and bring lawsuits against them.

Requirements to Patent Cosmetics

Here are some of the requirements that must be satisfied for the patent office to grant a patent for a cosmetic.

1) The Cosmetic Must Contain Patentable Subject Matter

To patent a cosmetic, the patent office requires it to contain patentable subject matter. Said differently, the cosmetic must be something that the patent office would grant a patent for. Cosmetics would fall under this category because they involve a formula or mixture of ingredients. The end product is a cosmetic, which qualifies as a composition of matter. For the patent office to grant a patent, there are still three other requirements that an inventor will have to satisfy to obtain a patent.

2) The Cosmetic Must Be Novel

For the patent office to grant a patent on any invention, the inventor has to show that his invention is novel. Said differently, the inventor has to show that his invention is new, something that no else has ever publicly disclosed and patented before.

For example, if someone takes a formula for a cosmetic from something that was published online, that cosmetic will not qualify for a patent because it has been publicly disclosed. Basically, the cosmetic has to be new to qualify for patent protection.

Now when we say that a cosmetic has to be new, we don't necessarily mean that every ingredient has to be new, but that the mixture or combination of ingredients must make something that is totally new. Don't get me wrong, if someone has discovered new ingredients and proceeded to add it to their formula, this definitely supports a finding that a cosmetic is new because no one else has ever used it or patented it.

3) The Cosmetic Must Be Nonobvious

Now that someone has established that a cosmetic is new, they have to show that the cosmetic is nonobvious. What does this mean? This means that the cosmetic has to be something that a person familiar within the field of cosmetic would not find your combination of ingredients to be obvious. To patent a cosmetic, the combination of ingredients or chemicals has to be something that no one had thought of at the time of filing either a provisional or (regular) nonprovisional patent application.

When the patent office judges the nonobviousness of the cosmetic, the patent examiner does so from the point of view of an ordinary person. The examiner will ask whether an ordinary person familiar with cosmetics will find the cosmetic formula to be obvious. This is a subjective inquiry. If the patent examiner concludes that it was obvious, the patent will not be granted. If the patent examiner finds that it was not obvious, the patent will proceed.

What makes something more or less obvious? If you're simply adding more propylene glycol to a cosmetic, it's unlikely that the patent examiner will find an invention (cosmetic) nonobvious, because adding this ingredient is something that an ordinary person would find to be obvious. To succeed on the element of nonobviousness, the combination of ingredients has to be one that no one else has thought of combining.

4) The Cosmetic Must Be Useful

To patent an invention, an applicant must show that his invention is useful. Patent applications are rarely rejected on the ground that they are not useful, but it's still important to note that an invention has to be useful to be patented.

To show usefulness, an applicant has to show that the cosmetic he wants to patent has some identifiable benefit to the end-user. For example, if an inventor has come up with a new facial cream, he can show usefulness by stating that the cream reduces wrinkles or offers sun protection. Either of these benefits will be able to show that your invention is indeed useful and has a useful purpose.

Design Patent on the Packaging of a Cosmetic

In addition to a utility patent protecting the formulation of a cosmetic, inventors can also obtain a design patent to protect the appearance of the packaging for their cosmetics. An applicant can get a design patent on the packaging only if the appearance and design of the packaging are new and unique. So, when you're consulting with an attorney to patent your cosmetics, ask them about a design patent for the product packaging.

Marketing A Patented Cosmetic

Patenting a cosmetic often makes it easier to sell a product because of the fact that a cosmetic maker will be able to label their cosmetic as "patent pending" while the patent examiner prosecutes their application and they're able to label it as having a "patented formula" once the patent office approves or grants their patent application.

People view patented products as products that are innovative because, hey! if someone went through the trouble of patenting a cosmetic, it has to be good and do something that other non-patented cosmetics don't do. So having a patented cosmetic definitely helps with marketing it.

Attorney

If you have a cosmetic or product that you want to patent, you should contact an experienced patent attorney. Patent attorneys have experience in what it takes to get an invention patented. So, find a decent attorney, preferably an attorney who specializes in the type of product that you want to patent and set up a consultation with them. Tell them about your specific case and listen to what they have to recommend. Many patent attorneys offer free consultations, so consult with one and see what they have to say about your specific situation.

If hiring an attorney is too expensive for you, you may be able to patent your invention with the help of a patent agent. Patent agents are licensed by the patent office and qualified to handle matters, such as assisting inventor in preparing and filing their patent application, as well as communicating with the patent office on behalf of their client. Patent agents can be a great resource, especially if you don't have the budget to hire an attorney.

That said, although the patent office allows inventors to prepare and filing their own patent application, the patent office recommends that inventors consult with and hire an attorney to patent their invention. This is so because patent law is complex and there are a lot of small requirements that must be followed for an inventor to patent his invention.

Cost

The cost to patent an invention varies greatly, but here are some helpful figures. Patent attorneys often charge anywhere between $8,000 and $15,000+ to prepare and file a patent application. The amount an attorney will charge you depends on how complex your invention is, as well as where your attorney is located. Attorneys in different parts of the US charge different amounts, so keep this in mind.

Also, the figures we quoted are just for an attorney to prepare and file your application, if an attorney has to do additional work, such as communicating with the patent office or amending your patent application, the attorney may charge you additional fees to do so.

Patenting a Cosmetic

By now, you should know that cosmetics can be patented, so long as an applicant satisfies the requirements set forth by the USPTO. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.