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Essential Patent Documents
Common Patent Questions
What is a patent?
A patent establishes intellectual ownership of an invention. There are three basic kinds of patents issued by the USPTO: design, plant, and utility. Design patents concern inventions that are new and novel but don’t necessarily improve any functionality, such as the shape of a soda can. Plant patents, though rare, involve things like new seed strains that were invented and did not naturally evolve. Utility patents are the most common by far and concern everything from a brand new product to a prescription drug to a machine or even a process of manufacture. To qualify, your invention would need to have a use (even a novelty or trivial one) and substantively different than an existing patent.
Can I patent an idea?
Simply put, no. Patents cover inventions not the ideas that inspired them. To successfully apply for a patent, you often will want to tell the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) how you came up with the idea behind your invention, but that won’t be enough to secure a patent. You’ll need to show exactly how your invention works (this is often done with diagrams and design specs) and explain how it’s different from previous, existing inventions.
What does “patent pending” mean?
“Patent pending” means that someone has applied for patent protection on their invention but has yet to receive a reply from the US Patent and Trademark Office. You cannot legally use the phrase “patent pending” without having actually applied for a provisional or full patent.
What can I do about patent infringement?
If you suspect your patent has been infringed upon, it’s highly advisable you talk to a qualified patent attorney. Since patents can be worth big money, you’ll want a professional on your side, especially if you’re dealing with a large corporation. You could win royalties and make back lost profits as a result of a successful patent case.
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