What is a patent in business?
In the world of business, protecting your ideas and innovation is crucial for success.
One powerful tool available to entrepreneurs and inventors is a patent.
It grants you a legal monopoly for a certain period, allowing you to prevent others from making, using, or selling your invention without permission.
However, the process of obtaining a patent can be complex and the types of patents available vary depending on the field of the invention.
In this article, we’ll discuss the intricacies of patents in business, exploring the different types available, and the process to obtain one.
You will also find out how to protect your business ideas and drive success in your business.
So, ensure that you carefully read and follow this to the end.
What Is a Patent? – What Is a Patent in Business
A patent is a legal monopoly granted to an inventor for a certain period for an invention that is new, non-obvious, and useful.
Typically, the period is 20 years from the date of filing.
The purpose of a patent is to protect the rights of the inventor to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention without the inventor’s permission.
This way, it gives the patent holder the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a limited period.
However, in exchange, the patent holder will have to publicly disclose the details of the invention.
The patent office can grant patents for various types of inventions, such as processes, machinery, manufacture, the composition of matters, or any new and useful improvement.
Types of Patents – What Is a Patent in Business
There are four main types of patents in business, and they are:
Utility patents are a type of patent granted for new, useful, and non-obvious inventions or discoveries.
In other words, they cover the functional category of inventions such as new machines, new processes, new compositions of matters, or new uses of an existing invention.
For an invention to be eligible for a utility patent, it has to meet certain criteria established by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
These criteria include:
- Novelty: The invention has to be novel and not obvious to someone skilled in the field
- Usefulness: It needs to have some practical application or utility
- Enablement: The patent application should enable someone skilled in the field to make and use the invention
- Written Description: The patent application should provide a written description of the invention and how to make and use it
- Best Mode: The patent application should disclose the best mode of carrying out the invention
- Claims: The patent application should include clear and concise claims defining the scope of the invention
If your discovery or invention meets all the criteria, you can then follow these steps to acquire one:
Conduct a Patent Search
You need to conduct a thorough search to discover whether your invention is already patented or similar to existing patents before applying for a utility patent.
However, you can do your research through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website or by hiring a professional patent searcher.
Prepare and File a Patent Application – What Is a Patent in Business
Once you have determined that your invention meets all the criteria, you can begin preparing your patent application.
So, this will typically include a written description of the invention, called specifications, and one or more drawings or diagrams.
Also, the application should include one or more claims, which define the specific aspects of the invention that you are seeking to protect.
After completing the application, you have to file it with the USPTO.
Review by a Patent Examiner
After you file your application, the USPTO will assign a patent examiner to review it and determine if it meets all of the legal requirements for a utility patent.
The examiner will also search to determine if your invention is novel and non-obvious.
If the examiner finds any issues with the application, they will send you an office action, which will explain the issues.
It will also provide instructions on how to address them.
Respond to Office Actions – What Is a Patent in Business
If you receive an office action, you will need to respond to it within a certain timeframe.
This typically involves making changes to your application, such as amending the claims or providing additional information.
Once you have responded to the office action, the examiner will review your changes and determine if they are sufficient.
If the examiner is satisfied with your application, they will issue you a notice allowance.
The approval of your application is indicated by a note allowance.
So, at this point, you will need to pay a fee to the USPTO to have the patent issued.
Maintenance – What Is a Patent in Business
Once the patent is issued, you will need to pay maintenance fees at regular intervals to keep the patent in force.
You should do your best to maintain the rights of the patent holder.
The patent expires when its maintenance fees are not paid
Enforce the Patent
Now, you have the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention without your permission.
So, if someone does infringe on your patent, you can take legal action to stop them and seek damages.
Design Patents – What Is a Patent in Business
A design patent is a type of patent that protects the ornamental design of an object, such as the unique appearance of a product.
It gives the holder the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling a product that has the same or substantially similar appearance.
However, the design has to be original and non-obvious.
Design patents are granted for 15 years from the date of grant.
In the business setting, an invention can only be eligible for a design patent when it meets the following criteria:
- New and Original: The design should be new and not identical or substantially similar to existing designs
- Ornamental features: The design should be ornamental and not functional
- Non-obvious: The design should not be obvious to a person having ordinary skills in the relevant field
- Fully and Properly Disclosed: The design should be fully and properly disclosed in the patent application
- Utility requirement: The design should be intended for use with or on a useful article
If your invention meets the criteria, you can obtain a design patent by following these steps:
Conduct a Search
Just as with a utility patent, you need to search to make sure that your design is new and non-obvious.
In other words, you will need to search through existing design patents and published design applications.
This is to ensure that your design is not similar to anything that has already been patented.
Prepare and File a Patent Application – What Is a Patent in Business
The next thing to do is to prepare and file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
So, this application has several components.
However, the important components are the drawings or photographs of the design and a written description of the design.
Examination and Review by the USPTO
After you have filed the application, a patent examiner at the USPTO will examine and review the application.
Their examination will determine if the design meets the criteria for novelty, non-obviousness, and ornamental features.
Furthermore, the examiner might require additional information or changes to the application.
Allowance or Rejection – What Is a Patent in Business
The examiner has the authority to either approve the application and issue a design patent or reject the application.
However, their decision is determined by if the “invention” meets the necessary criteria.
So, if they reject your application, you can file a response and/or appeal the decision.
Payment of Issue Fee
If the examiner approves your application, you will need to pay an issue fee to the USPTO.
The issue fee is very important.
This is because without paying it, you won’t be issued a patent.
Maintenance Fee – What Is a Patent in Business
Design patents are not renewed.
However, you would have to pay a maintenance fee to keep it in force.
The process of getting a design patent can take several months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the design and the backlog at the USPTO.
Also, you need to know that it is highly advisable to work with a patent attorney or agents, as they can help you navigate the process.
Also, they will help to increase your chances of getting a patent.
Plant patents are granted by the government and are commonly used in the horticultural and agricultural industries.
So, The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants plant patents as a type of intellectual property protection for new varieties of plants that have been asexually reproduced.
This gives the inventor or discovers of the plant the exclusive right to sell, reproduce, and distribute the plant for a limited period, usually 20 years.
Furthermore, this allows the inventor to protect their investment in creating the new variety.
And it also provides an incentive for the inventor to further in the field of plant breeding.
Besides that, to obtain a plant patent, a new and distinct asexually reproducible variety of a plant has to meet the following criteria:
- Asexual reproduction
- Discovery and origin
The process of obtaining a plant patent requires;
The first step is to determine if the plant is eligible for a patent.
To be eligible, the plant has to be a novel, distinct, and stable variety of plant that has been asexually reproduced.
Conduct a Prior Art Search – What Is a Patent in Business
Before applying for a patent, you should conduct a thorough search of existing patents and published literature.
This is to ensure that the plant is indeed novel and not already patented.
Prepare and File a Patent Application
The next step is to prepare and file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The application should include detailed descriptions of the plant, its characteristics, and the methods used for asexual reproduction.
Examination by the USPTO – What Is a Patent in Business
The USPTO will examine the application to determine if it meets the legal requirements for a patent, including novelty, non-obviousness, and utility.
If your discovery doesn’t meet the requirement, then the examiner will likely reject your application.
However, they will issue you a notice of allowance if they approve the application.
Pay the Issue Fee
After you have been issued a notice of allowance you will then need to pay an issue fee.
You being granted the patent is ensured by paying this fee.
In other words, they will approve your application but we will not grant you the patent if you don’t pay it.
So, you should have planned for this from the beginning of applying for the patent.
Receive the Plan Patent – What Is a Patent in Business
You will have the exclusive right to sell, reproduce, and distribute the plant when the patent has been granted to you,
And this will be for 20 years from the date of the grant.
Just as with other types of patents, plant patent holders need to pay maintenance fees to keep the patent in force.
In other words, to keep your patent effective for 20 years period, you will have to pay for it to stay effective.
Do not assume that the issue fee has been paid and the patent has been granted to you, and therefore, you do not have to pay its maintenance fees
If you do, you will end up having an ineffective patent.
Provisional Patent – What Is a Patent in Business
A provisional patent is a type of patent application that is filed with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
It is a less formal and less expensive option compared to a non-provisional patent application.
Additionally, a provisional patent application allows an inventor to establish an early effective filling data for a later filed non-provisional patent application.
Furthermore, it also allows the inventor to use the term “patent pending” in connection with the invention.
However, the USPTO does not examine a provisional patent application and it does not result in the grant of a patent.
Instead, it establishes an early effect-filling date for a later filed non-provisional patent application, which the USPTO will examine.
On the other hand, a non-provisional patent is also a type of patent.
Unlike a provisional patent, a non-provisional patent is a complete patent application that goes through the standard examination process.
Filling a non-provisional application is what gives a claim to the benefit of a filed provisional application.
Therefore, after you have filled a provisional patent, you will need to file a non-provisional patent.
Provisional patent applications are useful for businesses as it allows them to secure an early effective filling date for their inventions.
To obtain a provisional patent, you can follow these steps:
Conduct a Patentability Search
Before filing a provisional patent application, you need to conduct a patentability search to ensure that your invention is novel and non-obvious.
So, you can do this by searching the USPTO’s database of patents and published patent applications.
Also, you can search relevant sources such as scientific journals and trade publications.
Prepare the Provisional Patent Application – What Is a Patent in Business
The provisional patent application should include a written description of the invention.
You should detail the invention enough to enable someone skilled in the field to understand how to make and use it.
Also, it should include any drawings or diagrams that may be necessary to understand the invention.
So, you can either prepare the application yourself or hire a patent attorney or agent to help you.
File the Provisional Patent Application
Once you prepare the provisional patent application, you have to file it with the USPTO.
So, you can file the application electronically using the USPTO’s electronic filing system (EFS-Web) or by mail.
Next, the USPTO will then assign an application number and filing date.
Pay the Filing Fee – What Is a Patent in Business
To file a provisional patent application, you need to pay a filing fee.
However, the fee amount varies depending on the type of applicant and the number of claims in the application.
Monitor the Expiration Date
Provisional patent applications have a 12-month pendency period, after which the application will expire.
So, you need to monitor the expiration date and file a non-provisional patent application before the expiration date.
File a Non-provisional Patent Application
If you wish to pursue a patent, you need to file a non-provisional patent application within 12 months of the provisional patent application filing date.
The non-provisional patent has to claim the benefit of the earlier filed provisional application.
Wait for the Examination – What Is a Patent in Business
The USPTO will examine the non-provisional patent application after filing.
However, the examination process can take several months or even years.
The patent examiner will review the application and may issue an office action that addresses any objections or requirements that need to be addressed.
Respond to Office Actions
If the patent examiner raises any objections or requirements, you will need to respond to them.
So, this can involve making revisions to the application or providing additional information.
Obtain a Patent – What Is a Patent in Business
A Notice of Allowance will be issued by the patent examiner if they are content with the application.
Subsequently, a fee for issuance will be required from you to obtain the granted patent.
So, you need to keep in mind that the process of obtaining a patent can be complex and time-consuming.
Furthermore, you should consult with a patent attorney or agent to ensure that you prepare your application properly and guide you through the process.
Importance of Patent in Business – What Is Patent in Business
Patents have several important roles in business including:
Businesses can license or sell patents, thereby providing a source of revenue.
Therefore, this can be particularly valuable for small businesses or startups that may not have the resources to manufacture and sell their products on a large scale.
Patents provide legal protection for an invention or unique product or process.
Hence, this gives the holder exclusive rights to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention for a certain period.
Ultimately, this gives a business a competitive advantage by preventing competitors from copying their products or using their processes without permission.
Exclusivity – What Is Patent in Business
The holder of patents can use exclusivity to prevent competitors from entering the market with similar products or processes.
So, this can help a business to maintain its market share and increase its revenue.
Conclusion on What Is a Patent in Business
Patents play a crucial role in the business world as they protect innovative ideas and products.
They allow you to secure your intellectual property and prevent others from profiting from your hard work.
Hence, you need to have a strong patent strategy to safeguard their unique products and processes.
Additionally, it helps to maintain your competitive edge in the market.
So, the patent system provides incentives for you to invest in research and development.
Ultimately, this benefits society by promoting innovation and progress.