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U.S. patents: Roots, evolution and new developments

World Intellectual Property Day was April 26th. We just finished a series of posts celebrating this year’s theme: the ingenuity of girls and women as reflected in their new innovations and inventions that will advance the fields of health, technology, environmental protection, industry, engineering, agriculture, transportation and others. 

We encourage up-and-coming inventors to take the important step of seeking legal protections, such as by applying for patents. Here at Hovey Williams LLP, we help individuals and organizations determine if their ideas are patentable, apply for patents in the U.S. (and internationally), avoid infringing on the patents of others, protect their intellectual property against infringement, and resolve patent disputes.

Constitutional roots 

Most people do not know that the U.S. Constitution enshrines protection for intellectual property expressly stating that Congress has the power to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Thereafter, George Washington signed the first patent bill in 1790. 

Patent basics 

We assist our clients with patent applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), the governmental agency that grants patents. 

Patents are available for processes, machines, manufactured items, chemical compounds, and improved versions thereof. The USPTO summarizes patentable inventions as “practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.” Patentable inventions must also be novel (original), useful and nonobvious (not obvious to someone with “ordinary skill” in the relevant field). Patents generally have a 20-year lifespan. This means that other parties may not use, make, or sell the invention for that time period. 

Patent milestone 

In recognition of the approaching grant of the 10 millionth patent sometime this Summer, the USPTO recently revealed a newly designed patent grant cover. According to the USPTO, the cover has only been redesigned two times in the last century. The new cover will be used for the first time on the paper document issued to the future owner of patent number 10 million. 

We have represented inventors from a wide variety of specialties and industries and look forward to assisting more bright, innovative people in protecting their inventions yet to be discovered.

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