Utility Patent Applications: Patent Application Types and Strategies – Part 4

Utility Patent Application Benefit:   Can give you a solid “Patent Pending” status that will be formally examined by the Patent Office and hopefully result in an enforceable patent.  Utility patents can protect the structure, function, method of manufacture, method of use, and method of operation of your invention.  They can even be used to protect software and business methods.

Utility Patent Application Risk:   Cost and time-to-patent usually varies by the type of technology for your invention and its complexity, and generally cannot be determined very closely from the start of the application.  If your patent application publishes or issues, the public will be aware of the details of your invention and how to make it.  If your invention is ruled non-novel or obvious by a patent examiner, you may not be able to get a patent or negotiations may become more expensive.

Tip:   Utility patents are the real strength in patent enforcement.  Doing a formal patentability search before you prepare and file your application can significantly help the strength of your application, reduce the cost to negotiate the application in the Patent Office, and even save you the money of the application if the invention really isn’t patentable.

Detail:   A utility patent application has formal format, content and other requirements in addition to novelty and non-obviousness requirements.  Novelty means your invention has not been done by someone else in that way before.  Non-obvious means that your invention would not have been obvious to someone in that field based on the knowledge publically available (patents and publications).  A utility patent application (the primary form of a non-provisional patent application) is used for protecting the function and composition of a product or method.  A utility patent application may be filed without claiming priority to a prior application, may be filed as a “child” (see Next Entry) of a prior application, or may merely claim priority to a prior filed provisional application.  To claim priority to a prior-filed application, the utility application must be filed while the prior application is pending and must properly claim priority.  Utility patents are the types of patents the public generally recognizes as a patent.  Utility patents expire 20 years from the earliest priority date (see Next Entry) for the claimed invention.