Patent Forms

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The best qualified person to give legal advice is usually an attorney. However, in most cases, legal expense is high enough that the decision to consult a lawyer is driven by the fact that there really isn't an alternative solution. When it comes to patents, however, there is. Save your patent lawyer search for when you have an issue with an existing patent. That's the advice my cousin Charles gave me some years back. Charles is a first-rate patent attorney, a graduate of a prestigious Southern law school. My own research bears him out.

Understanding a Patent

Getting a patent is fairly straightforward. Between the copious and fairly clear-cut information available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office itself, and the more clear renditions of the same information available from various intermediaries, you're generally good to go. Who are the intermediaries? Any number of legal services bureaus offering basic business and legal forms for a nominal fee. They're generally overseen and vetted by an advisory board of some sort consisting of accountants, lawyers, and businessmen.

But back to patents and the meaning of the words "patent pending" and that long string of numbers that follows. What are patents? In layman's language, they're legal protection for an invention. In the words of Merriam-Webster, they entail an exclusive proprietary claim on an invention. Specifically, this means the exclusive right to "make, use, or sell" an invention for a specified number of years.

How are patents different from copyrights? Copyrights apply to the expressive arts, that is, creative works, whether artistic, literary, or musical. Patents, as all definitions note, apply to inventions, that is, things or processes. A machine is one example, and a method of production is another. There are three basic types of patents--utility, design, and plant patents. The first category speaks largely for itself. For design patents, the law requires that the design be novel, nonobvious, and nonfunctional. Plants may qualify for a patent if they are both novel and nonobvious.

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