Patent Searching, Patent
Applications, Duration, and
Because obtaining a utility patent depends on an invention being novel and nonobvious, conducting a search before applying for a patent is critical. A search of the prior art and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) records will disclose whether the invention is sufficiently novel and nonobvious to qualify for patent protection. Once the search has been conducted, an application for the patent is filed, disclosing the method of making and using the invention. Like the trademark process, patent prosecution involves examination by the PTO and responses by the applicant to any PTO objections until the application is finally approved or rejected. As noted in Chapter 13, once a utility patent is issued, it remains in force for twenty years from the date the application was filed as long as all fees are paid during the term of the patent to maintain its existence. As items of personal property, patents can be sold or licensed to others and can be bequeathed by will. Any assignment or transfer of an application for a patent or an issued patent must be in writing. An inventor who wants patent protection in other countries must comply with the laws and requirements of those countries because the rights granted by a U.S. patent extend only throughout the United States.