A patent issues only as the result of filing and successfully prosecuting a patent application. Most patent applications are utility applications; they are drawn to functional articles, machines, compositions, or processes; items features that have utility. Utility patents do not cover ornamentation on functional items – those are the province of design patents.
A patent application must be prepared very carefully. It must describe the invention completely and accurately, and it must anticipate not only how the Patent Office will view the invention, but also how the technological field may change in the next twenty years so that it still provides relevant protection. This means the attorney will work closely with the inventor and have many back-and-forth discussions to determine exactly what the invention is. A patent search is often performed before an application is filed to gain greater insight about past similar inventions and also to determine whether filing an application is even prudent. If it makes sense to proceed with an application, drawings are prepare, and the application is then written.
A patent application includes claims, drawings, and description. The claims define the scope of legal protection of the invention. Each claims is a single sentence that claim slightly different aspects of the invention. Each claim can therefore be infringed independently by someone who copies your invention.
The claims are read together with the description. This description details what the invention is, how it works, and how it is made. The description must be written with enough detail that it enables a person skilled the relevant technical field to make and use the invention.
Drawings also support the claims and are referenced in the description. Drawings frequently show several different views of the invention, such as perspective, elevation, or sectional views. The drawings include reference characters that allow the reader of the patent to know exactly what part of the invention is referred to in the description.
If the application is successfully prosecuted, it will mature into a patent and provide protection for 20 years from the filing date of the application. Because prosecution can sometimes take several years, the period of protection after the patent issues is usually between 15 and 18 years. However, an applicant can claim “patent pending” as soon as an application was filed.
The patent application process can be complicated and difficult. Should you have any questions about it, please contact patent attorney Tom Galvani at 602-281-6481.