Who may apply for a U.S. Patent?
A patent may be granted to the inventor or discoverer of any new and useful process,
machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement
thereof, or on any distinct and new variety of plant, which is asexually reproduced,
or on any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
On what subject matter may a patent not
A patent may not be granted on a useless device, on printed matter, on an improvement
in a device which would be obvious to a person skilled in the art, or on a machine
which will not operate, particularly on an alleged perpetual motion machine.
If one person furnishes the ideas for invention
and another person employs him or finances his experimentation, should the patent
application be filed by them jointly?
No. The application should be signed by the true inventor and filed in his or
Is there any danger that the Patent and
Trademark Office will give others information contained in my application while
it is pending?
All patent applications are maintained in the strictest secrecy until the patent
is issued or the application is published. Publication is limited to only certain
applications. After the patent is issued, however, the file containing the application
and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available
in the files information room for inspection by anyone, and copies of these files
may be purchased from the Patent Office.
I have made some changes in my invention
after the filing of my patent application documents. May I amend my patent application
by adding a description and illustration of these features?
No. The law provides that new matter cannot be introduced into the disclosure
of a patent application. However, there is a procedure called "continuation-in-part
application" that allows the patent applicant to file a new application which
contains new subject matter to replace or supplement the original. You should
notify your patent practitioner immediately of any changes you make in your invention.
While in England last summer, I found an
article on sale which has not yet been introduced into the U.S. or patented or
described in the U.S. May I get a U.S. patent on this invention?
No. According to the law, a U.S. Patent can only be obtained by the true inventor,
not by one who learns of the invention of another.
Does the Patent and Trademark Office control
the fees charged by patent attorneys and agents for their services?
No. The Office maintains a roster of registered patent practitioners, but the
Office does not control fees, nor will the Office help you select a patent practitioner.
If I obtain a patent on my invention, will
that protect me against claims of others who say that I am infringing their patents?
No. There may be a patent of a more basic nature on which your invention is an
improvement. If your invention is a detailed refinement or feature of such a basically
protected invention, you may not use it without the consent of the patentee, just
as no one will have the right to use your patented improvements without your consent.
Seek competent legal advice before you commercialize your invention, even if your
invention is protected by a patent granted to you.
What do the terms "patent pending"
and "patent applied for" mean?
They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that
an application for patent on that article is on file in the Patent and Trademark
Office. The law imposes a fine on those who use these terms falsely to deceive
Can an inventor sell his right to a patent
or patent application to someone else?
Yes. The inventor can sell all or any part of his interest in the patent application
or the patent. The patent application must be filed in the Patent and Trademark
Office as the invention of the true inventor, however, and not as the invention
of the purchaser.
Does a U.S. patent protect my invention
in other countries?
No. The U.S. patent protects your invention only in this country. If you wish
to protect your invention in foreign countries, you must file an application in
the patent office of each such country within the time limit permitted by law.
Check with your patent practitioner about costs before you decide to file in foreign
(Questions and answers adapted from the U.S. government booklet "Q and
A About Patents," U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office.)
For more information, visit the Patent Trade Office at www.uspto.gov.