A U. S. patent for an invention is a grant of a property right by the Government to the inventor (or his or her heirs or assigns), acting through the Patent and Trademark Office. The duration of a patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, if the application contains a specific reference to an earlier filed application, from the date the earliest such application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. The right conferred by the patent grant extends only throughout the United States.

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

A patent does not guarantee success! It only means that your invention is significantly different from anything else that has been patented, but not necessarily superior.

It is a good idea to practice good documentation in the early stages of conception and development of your invention. If someone files for patent protection for the same invention as you, the patent is awarded to the inventor who was first to conceive it, not first to file. Contact us to learn more about keeping an Inventor's Notebook.

Why do a patent search?

  • To see if you can get a patent and avoid wasting time and money on an application
  • See if similar patents exist that were not successfully commercialized (Key follow-up question: Why did they fail?)
  • Provides valuable background information

More information can be found at the USPTO site: Basic facts about patents


A copyright protects the writings of an author against copying. Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are included within the protection of the copyright law, which in some instances also confers performing and recording rights. The copyright protects the form of expression rather than to the subject matter of the writing. A description of a machine could be copyrighted as a writing, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered with the United States Copyright Office.

Trademarks & Servicemarks

A trademark or servicemark relates to any word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods or services to indicate the source or origin of the goods or services and to distinguish them from the goods or services of others. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling them under a non-confusing mark. Similar rights may be acquired in marks used in the sale or advertising of services (service marks). Trademarks and service marks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered in the Patent and Trademark Office. More information can be found at the USPTO site: Basic Facts About Trademarks.


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