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Patent Applications - Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a Patent Agent and a Patent Attorney?

For the purposes of researching, drafting, filing and prosecuting patent applications, a Patent Agent and a Patent Attorney have met the same registration criteria, and are equivalent. The key differences are that a Patent Agent isn't a lawyer, cannot litigate, and cannot work with trademarks or copyrights. These differences don't matter for obtaining a patent.

What exactly does having a patent do for me?
Quoting the United States Patent and Trademark Office, "A patent is a type of property right. It gives the patent holder the right, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing into the United States the subject matter that is within the scope of protection granted by the patent."

How long is a patent good for?
A patent is granted for a term of 20 years. This term begins on the issue date and generally ends 20 years from the date on which the original U.S. application was filed.

How long does it take to get a patent?
The average successful patent application takes about 2-3 years from initial filing to issue. A simple application that proceeds without any claim rejections or other complications may take much less time, (although that is very rare) and a complex application may take much longer.

What are the basic Patent Office fees involved in obtaining a patent?
In the past few years the USPTO has broken up the basic fees into smaller pieces and then has increased each one separately. For filing a patent there is now a filing fee, a search fee and an examination fee. When a patent is allowed there is an issue fee and a publication fee. Over the life of a patent there are three maintenance fees. The current fees can be found in the Fees section of the USPTO website. For small businesses and many private inventors it may be possible to pay the discounted Small Entity fees, and for some inventors there are the even more discounted Micro Entity fees.

In addition to these basic fees, there may be other Patent Office fees involved in defending the patent claims against rejection by the patent examiner during the prosecution phase. There is also the amount charged at each phase by the patent agent or attorney for their work. This will vary depending on the complexity of the invention, the body of prior art to be researched, and what sort of rejections (very likely) are offered by the patent examiner.

What's the difference between a utility patent and a design patent?
A utility patent covers the way something works; a design patent protects the exterior appearance of an article of manufacture and can overlap copyright and trademark protection. All design patents have "D" before the number. Like utility patents, design patents must be novel and unobvious. Design patents last 14 years from the date of issue and are not subject to maintenance fees. The filing and issue fees for design patents are much lower than those for utility patents.

What about patents in other countries?
A U.S. patent is in effect within the United States only. It is possible to apply for patents in other countries. International patent applications are a very expensive and complex matter, and generally require the assistance of a patent firm present in the specific country to act as a local specialist. At this time I'm not doing any international patent applications, only U.S. patent applications.

Why should I choose to work with Scott Lefton?
Scott Lefton has a Master of Science degree in Engineering and has been working as a design engineer for over 30 years in a variety of technical fields. He is named as an inventor on patents for both electronic and mechanical inventions, in addition to being a registered patent agent. While most patent agents and attorneys have technical degrees, few additionally have the professional experience to really understand the inventive process. Some of the recent court rulings in patent litigation cases emphasize how critical it is for patent applications to disclose and claim literally all foreseeable embodiments and variations of the invention. By combining the skills of a patent agent with the skills of an experienced engineer and inventor, Scott Lefton can offer you a strategic advantage on the research, drafting, filing and prosecution of your patent application.

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