A patent is a legal document that gives its owner a competitive advantage over competitors. A patent provides the owner of an invention or an item’s design the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention or design for a specific period of time.   In the United States, the types of patents and patent applications include the following: plant patents; design patents; utility patents; and, provisional patent applications.  An invention or design must be patentable subject matter, useful, new or novel, and non-obvious to be granted patent protection. Examining patent attorneys at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) examine each patent application filed with the USPTO for these four requirements to determine if an invention is patentable.  The registered patent attorneys at The Plus IP Firm are also engineers and assist our clients in New York City, the Tri-State Area and beyond to select, prepare and file the most suitable patent application for accomplishing their goals.   

Design Patents

Individuals and businesses use design patents to protect the ornamental or aesthetic features of a product.  The USPTO will grant an owner a design patent for any new, original and ornamental design of a product.  A product or invention may be entitled to both design patent protection and utility patent protection if it has ornamental features that can exist independently of its functional features. However, a purely functional design is not patentable.  

There are several differences between design patents and utility patents.  First, the term of a design patent is different than a utility patent.  The term of a patent is the period of time that a patent may be enforced against others.   Generally speaking, a design patent’s term ends either 14 or 15 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed. On the other hand, a utility patent’s term ends 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed.  Another difference between a design patent and a utility patent are the patent drawings.  The drawings are the most important aspects of a design patent.  Because a patent protects the ornamental features of a product’s design, the USPTO requirements rules and requirements for design patent drawings are stricter than for utility patent drawings.  Another difference is that a design patent takes less time for a patent attorney to draft than a utility patent.  Therefore, a design patent typically is less costly than a utility patent.

A design patent only covers the elements in the design patent’s drawings that are illustrated as solid lines. Elements in the design patent’s drawings illustrated by dotted lines are not protected. Generally speaking, a product’s design infringes on a design patent when the product’s design is substantially similar to the design claimed in the design patent and the product is made, used or sold in the United States without permission. A design does not have to be an exact copy for the design to infringe on a design patent. The registered patent attorneys at The Plus IP Firm are available to assist clients in the Tri-State Area and beyond to acquire and enforce design patents to accomplish our client’s goals.   

Utility patents

Utility patent patents are used to protect functional aspects of an invention.  There are two types of utility patent applications, provisional patent applications and non-provisional patent applications.  Under United States patent law, a provisional patent application is a legal document filed in the USPTO that allows an inventor to establish an early filing date. Essentially, a provisional patent application is a place holder in line.  An early filing date in patent law is very important because the entire world operates under a “first to file system”. A first to file system means that the first person or entity to file for patent rights for an invention will have superior rights of a subsequent person or entity that files for patent rights on the same invention.  

A provisional patent application will never become an issued patent unless the applicant files a regular non-provisional patent application within one year of the date that an applicant files the provisional patent application.  A provisional patent application is never substantively examined by the USPTO.  Additionally, a provisional patent application is never published by the USPTO and remains confidential information unless disclosed by another party. 

A provisional patent application has several advantages. A provisional patent application is not as costly to prepare and file as a non-provisional patent application. This is because the government filing fees are less than a non-provisional patent application and legal requirements for a provisional patent application are less tedious than a non-provisional.

The same day that an applicant files a provisional patent application with the USPTO a product can be marked “patent pending.” Patent pending marked on an invention can sway competitors from using the idea. Some businesses and entrepreneurs sometimes use the product’s patent pending status as a competitive advantage to raise financing or to promote and market the product.

Communicating your business goals and strategies to your patent attorney will assist you in determining the best approach for your business. Many businesses and inventors in NYC and the Tri-State Area use patents to protect their businesses’ intellectual property.   The registered patent attorneys at The Plus IP Firm are available to assist clients in the Tri-State Area and beyond to develop a patent strategy for acquiring utility patents and enforcing those utility patents through litigation if necessary.   

 

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