Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring any of a variety of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized, and the corresponding fields of law.
Patents are one form of Intellectual Property. A Patent defines a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor for a period of time in exchange for public disclosure of the Invention. Patents were originally conceived to help promote technological growth and development.
A patent provides an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the inventor’s consent. The inventor may license or sell the rights to the Invention as defined by the issued claims of the patent. An inventor can also identify the product as “patent pending” on their products and marketing materials after submission of the patent application.
There are currently over 8 million United States patents issued to inventors. Inventions can be of significant value. Without a patent, you are exposing your invention to others where they can make and sell your invention without your permission or any compensation.
Inventors should always consider Patent protection during the initial stages of their invention. Provisional Patents provide Patent Pending protection for up to one year, while the Inventor continues developing the product.
Prior to the 1980, it was possible for the “little guy” to start up his own company to manufacture a new product he invented without patent protection. Back then, the company who built a better mousetrap was the company that survived. Today’s marketplace is significantly different from the good old days. Large corporations now dominate the marketplace with fierce price cutting strategies. Large companies are forced to merge to simply compete in today’s extremely competitive market.
What do large corporations now do with their intellectual property? Do they simply “out market” their competition by producing a better product and don’t file for patent protection like it used to be? Unfortunately not. Because competition between companies is extremely strong and investors are ever more requiring to see assets in a company, they are actually filing more patent applications.
The Patent and Trademark Office registers both attorneys at law and persons who are not attorneys at law. The former persons are now referred to as “patent attorneys” and the latter persons are referred to as “patent agents.” Insofar as the work of preparing an application for a patent and conducting the prosecution in the Patent and Trademark Office is concerned, patent agents are usually just as well qualified as patent attorneys, although patent agents cannot conduct patent litigation in the courts or perform various services which the local jurisdiction considers as practicing law. For example, a patent agent could not draw up a contract relating to a patent, such as an assignment or a license, if the state in which he/she resides.