Before beginning the process to obtain a patent, it is important to understand the distinction between a patent, trademark and copyright, to make the correct choice.

The first thing to do is determine whether or not the invention has already been patented. If not then you need to determine what type of patent you need. There are three types of patents, utility, design and plant. Utility applies to the invention or discovery of any new or useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter or improvement thereof. A design patent applies to the invention of a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Last, a plant patent applies to the invention or discovery and ability to asexually reproduce any distinct and new variety of plant.

Next you need to decide whether it is necessary to file globally or only in the U.S. The cost of filing depends on the different options along the way. It is not always necessary to hire an attorney to help you with filing your patent, however as is demonstrated above, the process can be very difficult and time consuming. Hiring an attorney who works with patents may save you a lot of time and increase your chances of securing your patent.

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Patent Protection

The United States patent system was created to help achieve various socially desirable goals. By providing an inventor with an exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of time, a patent rewards an inventor for the time and effort expended in developing the invention, thereby encouraging further creative efforts. Also, most new inventions have uncertain commercial value, and the patent system provides a degree of protection from competition for a limited period of time, thus encouraging investment in new technology. Additionally, the patent system encourages inventors to make their inventions known rather than to maintain them in a state of secrecy, thereby increasing the amount of technological knowledge available to the public. Finally, the patent system helps to aid in the sale or transfer of technology both within the United States and in foreign countries, by giving a commercially tangible form to otherwise intangible ideas.

A Guide to Intellectual Property Protection – a collaborative effort between the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development and Merchant & Gould


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