General Information Regarding U.S. Patents

In the United States, a patent is a right to exclude others from practicing your invention. Patents are granted by the government for a limited term – approximately 17 years for a utility patent and 14 years for a design patent.

It is critical to understand that a U.S. patent is never a right to practice your invention, such a right would depend on your invention not infringing any other valid and in-force patent. In other words, you may obtain a patent on your invention and still be unable to make, use or sell it, if it infringes an existing patent. There are patent agencies like Invent Help that could help you with your understanding of the patent.

A patent contains a description of the invention and a number of claims. The description, which consists of drawings in a design patent but usually contains both text and drawings in a utility patent, must be sufficient to teach a person skilled in the art of the invention to make and use the invention. This is known as an “enabling” disclosure. InventHelp can do this for you as well, learn why new inventors turn to InventHelp.

A design patent includes only one claim directed towards the ornamental design of the product, but in order to judge the breadth of that claim, say for evaluating infringement, one must compare the design to the prior art. A design patent’s breadth can therefore never be understood by looking only at the design patent and not at the prior art.

A utility patent, on the other hand, can contain any number of claims, each effectively forming an individual grant whose validity stands and falls independent of all of the remaining claims.

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