What is a Utility Patent Application?

A utility patent application can be filed in the U.S. Patent Office for utility inventions. A utility patent application cannot be filed for ornamental designs. Instead, a separate design patent application is required to protect ornamental appearance .

Can I stop Infringement?

An application cannot be enforced until it is examined and issued as a patent. Think about it. Someone could just file a patent application for a mobile phone and allege that the phone manufacturers are infringing. Not so fast. First, the Patent Office Examiner (the government) has to examine the claims. The Examiner will make sure that the invention should be protected.

Don’t be discouraged though. Once filed, you are entitled to mark your invention as “Patent Pending” or “Pat. Pend.” This designation can be used until the patent issues or goes abandoned. Patent Pending shows customers, competitors, and potential investors that you are serious about protecting the invention.

How long will it be until a Patent issues?

The U.S. Patent Office typically takes 1-3 years (sometimes longer) before they examine a patent application. There is no guarantee that the Patent Office will issue a patent.

In the meantime, there is nothing preventing you from licensing or selling rights in the invention. You can also sell the product of the invention. In fact, you should start marketing your invention as soon as the application is filed and your patent attorney gives you the go-ahead.

How soon should I file?

There are certain events that trigger deadlines for filing a patent application in the United States. Most foreign countries have an even stricter standard – you cannot publicly disclosed the invention. In addition, the U.S. Patent Law changed in 2013 to a “First-to-File” system. Under the “new” law, whoever files first has rights to the invention.

What happens after filing with the Patent Office?

The Patent Office examine applications and either issues an Office Action or a Notice of Allowance. While a Notice of Allowance would be nice, it is rare that the Examiner will issue a Notice of Allowance after the first examination. It’s more likely to receive an Office Action rejecting at least some claims. Of course, you can file a response arguing why the invention is unique. If that fails, inventors can appeal the rejection.

What if the invention changes after filing?

A patent application only provides a filing date for those aspects of the invention described and enabled. The invention is enabled by the written description and drawings filed. Any changes and improvements have to be filed as separate continuation or divisional application(s).

This article is general information only and not legal advice. Talk to a patent attorney to find out what is the best option for you.