A patent grants inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing their inventions in the US for a limited period of time. There are three types of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark office – utility, design and plant patents. The first step in determining whether to protect a new product or invention with a patent is to understand the costs and benefits of patent protection which can take as much as 5 years and entail costly legal fees. Therefore, one must assess whether excluding others from manufacturing, distributing or exploiting the subject of a patent outweighs the high costs of prosecuting and protecting the patent. When conducting this cost-benefit analysis, you have many factors to consider:
- Do you have research and development and non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements in place?
- Have you properly addressed the issue of patent rights ownership differing from country to country?
- Are you aware that in certain countries public exposure to the subject of your patent may result in loss of patent protection?
- Do you have a formal policy regarding when invention rights are assigned and whether such assigned rights include modifications or improvements on an invention?
- Do your inventor agreements outline who is allowed to exploit the invention, when and where it will be exploited and any compensation that may be paid?
- Is adequate protection available under state trade secret laws and therefore is patent protection unnecessary?
THE FRANCIS COMPANY advises you regarding these patent issues and more to ensure your inventions are protected.