What Is A Utility Patent?
When most people think of patents, they are thinking of utility patents. Almost 90 percent of all patents approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are utility patents.
But what is a utility patent and what are some utility patent examples? Utility patents are considered “patents for invention.” These patents can be filed to protect any new (or functionally improved) product, process, or machine that you or your company has invented. Once issued, a utility patent prohibits others from making, using, or selling anything significantly similar to your invention in the U.S. for a period of up to twenty years from the date the utility patent was filed.
Priori is dedicated to helping you find a utility patent lawyer who can ensure that your utility patent application is filed as efficiently and successfully as possible.
Why Apply for a Utility Patent?
Utility patents are invaluable in protecting your intellectual property. When your company has developed a key technology, or even significantly improved on an existing patent, a utility patent ensures that no one can copy or steal your invention, which might decrease your profits relating to that invention. The legal protections afforded by a utility patent are important to any business plan.
Requirements for the Approval of a Utility Patent
Because of the high level of protection utility patents afford, utility patents undergo an equally high level of scrutiny during the approval process. Utility patents must be filed correctly, both technically and legally, in order to pass USPTO benchmarks. Only experienced utility patent lawyers fully understand how structured the utility patent approval process can be.
In addition to checking that the utility patent paperwork is done correctly, the USPTO requires a utility patent to meet three basic requirements.
- The invention must be operable and useful. You cannot patent a theoretical technology. Your invention must generally be operable and soundly based in reality.
- The invention must be beneficial. Lowell v. Lewis established that a patentable invention should “not be frivolous or injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society.” Generally, this has been interpreted not to mean that an invention is strictly “moral,” but rather that the invention does not inherently harm people and serves some use.
- The invention must have practical use. It must have some real-world application. Essentially, a utility patent can only be issued if the invention has a clear, practical purpose.
A patent lawyer can help you assess whether your invention is patentable and can help you draft a utility patent application that maximizes your chances for approval. Your lawyer will also work with you to determine whether it makes sense to apply for provisional protection first.
Utility Patent Pricing
Depending on the complexity of your invention and the type of utility patent you need, the cost of filing an application can vary significantly. When you hire a lawyer in the Priori network, a patentability search will typically cost anywhere from $400 to $3,000. A provisional patent application can cost from $600 to $3,500, while a non-provisional utility patent application may cost from $4,750 to $20,000. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and receive a free price quote from one of our lawyers.
Do I have to pay maintenance fees for utility patents?
If you fail to pay a maintenance fee for your utility patent, the utility patent protection lapses, which means that the rights provided under the utility patent are no longer be enforceable. In order to keep your utility patent up-to-date, you must pay maintenance fees three times during the 20-year duration of the utility patent. These fees are due three years after the date of issue, seven years after the date of issue, and 11 years after the date of issue.
How long does it take to file a utility patent?
Utility patents are the most time-consuming type of patent to file. The average time it takes to process a utility patent is 24.6 months, but during that time you will have constant access to the status of your pending patent application on USPTO’s Patent Application Information Retrieval System (PAIR). An experienced utility patent lawyer will ensure that the process goes as smoothly and as efficiently as possible.
What if another company claims to already own the utility patent for my invention?
The United States is a “first to file” country for patents, not ”first to invent.” This means that if you and a competitor design two very similar inventions at the same time, whoever files for the patent first receives the protection, regardless of who had the idea first. That’s why it is so important to begin the utility patent process as early as possible. That said, if you truly believe that someone has stolen your technology, you may be able to have their patent invalidated. Discussing the case with a patent attorney can help you decide how to approach this issue.