Patent Process – An Overview

Patent is defined as the right, exclusively granted to an inventor by the national government for bringing out new inventions based on innovative original ideas. The invention could be anything ranging from machines to processes to working models.

The patent right is provided to the inventor, in return of his consent to publicly   disclose his/her invention.

The application to obtain a patent is submitted to the national government. The government considers the application and if the application is approved, the applicant receives the patent, valid for 20 years from the time of filing the application. The granting implies that the inventor gives his consent to the government to issue a complete description, including the use and description.

Procedure to File a Patent Application

There is a proper stepwise administrative procedure that needs to be followed while applying for a patent. The application is usually processed in the US patent office by your patent attorney. The process goes as follows.
First of all, an inventor has to submit an application containing a detailed description of his/her invention. The people involved in examining the application, typically called as a patent examiner are technically trained professionals from diverse fields. Specific examiners are chosen for specific fields (as per their specialization). An examiner checks whether there exists a previous claim for a closely similar technology.

In case, the examiner fishes out points of objection in your application, you can always go to a patent attorney to help you out. You can -

• Modify specific claims in the application by removing those specific points of objection
• Try to take the examiner in your confidence to prove that the application is compatible with the patent law
• Begin an appeals process

Getting Ready for a Patent Application

Planning patent applications, needs on part of the applicant, a deep knowledge of his/her own invention for which it has been filed. The applicant also needs to have a comprehensive understanding about patent law. That’s why majority of patent attorneys and agents are technically trained professionals in diverse scientific and engineering fields.

Applying for a Patent outside Your Country

Unlike copyright cases, a patent is valid only within the boundaries of the country in which it has been patented. A global patent simply don’t exists. So a patent granted by the United States Patent Office would be valid only within United States. Thus, if a person wishes to protect his/her intellectual property rights in other countries as well, he/she needs to apply specifically in that country.  
Time Limit for The Application

Inventors need to keep a few things in mind before they go for filing a patent application. An inventor is usually awarded a 1-year grace period right from the period when he/she chooses to public disclose his/her invention in one of the two forms –

• The inventor puts up the invention for sale.
• Publish a description of the invention, or provide a detailed account of the invention at a public gathering.

The right to receive a patent is lost, in case the inventor fails to file an application within a year of publicly disclosing his/her patent. If necessary, you should consult a patent attorney to go ahead with your application.

Legal Battle for Receiving Patents

Occasionally it happens that the applications of two similar inventions are filed at the same time. In such cases, the patent is granted to the one whose application precedes the other. However, the national government gives a chance to the other inventor to establish the fact that the original idea belongs to him/her.  

The measures adopted by the US laws to reach to a conclusion as to which of the two applicants should receive the patent, are collectively known as interferences. Interferences are typically legal battles and need a professional to move forward in a right direction.

What is Done When the Inventor is an Employee ?

As per law in the United States, a patent holds the inventor’s name on the invention. At times, the employer may like to assign the rights of the employee to himself/herself and in return give him/her rewards such as a bonus. Sometimes the two distribute royalties among themselves. But the name of the inventor on the patent is never changed.