Protecting Your Business's Creations with a Patent

Patents allow the patent holder (in this case, your business) an exclusive right to obtain the full financial benefits of your business's patented invention before others are allowed to help themselves to a piece of the financial pie.

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. Patent grants are effective only within the United States and its territories and possessions.

You can appreciate the value of such protection if you spent ten years of your life designing a new kind of mousetrap — far superior and more cost-effective than any currently on the market — and began selling it, only to have someone immediately copy it and undercut your price, putting you out of business in the process. In such a case, a patent is essential.

What can and can’t be patented has been subject to much debate over the years. But the law says that any person who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent, subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.

If you think you have an item that can and should be patented, run — don’t walk — to a competent patent attorney. The patent application process requires considerable research, and the appropriate forms have to be filed the right way and at the right time and place. Especially if this item may turn out to be the cornerstone of your business for many years into the future, this is not the time or place to try doing it yourself. Although filing a patent isn’t cheap, a competent patent attorney can save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

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