How Long Does a Patent Last?

A patent’s term is currently 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date. Thus, the term of a patent may vary from case to case. In one common example, if a patent application is filed as a first application and it takes three years before the application becomes a patent, the term of the issued patent will be 17 years. (Laws and procedures are in place to increase the term length of the patent if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O.) takes too long in examining it.) Maintenance fees must be paid 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years from the issue date to keep the patent in force.

What are the Requirements for a Patent?

There are several requirements for a patent. First and foremost, the inventor must file an application that describes the invention in such complete terms that one of “ordinary skill in the art” could make and use the invention from the description provided by the inventor. Second, the invention must be novel and nonobvious. “Novelty” means that the invention must not have been invented before. “Nonobviousness” means that the invention must not be obvious to “one of ordinary skill in the art” from the literature and patents that already exist.

Another important requirement for obtaining a patent is that the inventor be completely candid and honest with the U.S.P.T.O. during the process of obtaining the patent. The inventor and others associated with the preparation of a patent application have a duty to disclose any prior art (literature, patents, etc.) that might have a bearing on whether or not a patent should be granted. It is advisable to have a professional patent agency, such as InventHelp, by your side.

What about international patent protection?

A U.S. patent protects an invention only within the U.S. and its territories. Each country has its own patent law, and inventors wishing to protect their inventions in other countries must apply for patents in those other countries.

An inventor wishing to obtain a patent in another country must file a patent application in that country within one year of the date of filing in the U.S. Similarly, an inventor who has filed a patent application first in another country must file a corresponding U.S. application within one year of the date of filing in the foreign country. If an invention has been patented or described in a printed publication anywhere in the world, that patent or publication can bar an applicant from getting a U.S. patent. There are agencies that provide help for new inventors if there is any confusion in the process.

Procedures in foreign countries are often somewhat similar to those in the U.S., and most countries also insist on novelty and nonobviousness for any invention sought to be patented. There are some international treaties, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), that standardize some of the processing and make it easier for an applicant to obtain patent protection in multiple countries.

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