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Learn About Intellectual Property

This page is intended to give you a basic understanding of patents and other forms of intellectual property including trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. You can learn how to obtain a patent; learn how to search the United States Patent and Trademark Office to determine whether your invention is patentable; and learn how to file a patent application. We are available to assist you in any part of this process at a reasonable fee. Our fee schedule is only a click away.

Quick Reference Table Summarizing the Different Types of Intellectual Property    

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. There are five basic forms of intellectual property that can be protected: patents, copyrights, trademarks, mask works, and trade secrets. Each form of intellectual property has a unique function in helping individuals and businesses protect their business assets. The types of items that can be protected, the duration of the protection, the geographical areas where the protection extends and the time the protection is made available is summarized for your convenience is our overview table of Types of Intellectual Property.


How To Obtain A Patent


What Does It Cost to Obtain a Patent



Patent Primer for Non Lawyers





List of Patent Attorneys and Agents Registered to Practice Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office


Title 37 CFR Rules of Practice in Patent Case




Manual of Patent Examining Procedures






US Patent Classification System



Classification Index


Manual of Classification


Classification Definitions












WHAT IS A PATENT. Under the laws of the United States, a person is ordinarily free to make, use or sell anything he or she desires. However, when a United States patent is issued, the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks acting on behalf of and under the seal of the United States government grants the owner of the patent, the right to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention throughout the United States of America. In short, others may not make, use or sell the patented invention without the authorization of the patent owner. A patent then, is a limited monopoly granted by the government for the term period of the patent. After the patent expires, anyone may make, use or sell the invention.


WHAT IS PATENTABLE. Title 35 of the United States Code, Section 101 defines what is patentable. Section 101 states: Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.


WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS OF PATENTABILITY. The conditions of patentability are complex and are found in Title 35 of the United States Code, Sections 102 and 103. Because of the complexities that are involved in determining what is patentable, you should hire and obtain the advice of a patent attorney or agent that is registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. To give you a better understanding of the complexities involved we have reproduced Sections 102 and 103 that describe respectively, what is known as the anticipation and lack of novelty bars to obtaining a patent.


Section 102 states:

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless - (a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or (b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States, or (c) he has abandoned the invention, or (d) the invention was first patented or caused to be patented, or was the subject of an inventor's certificate, by the applicant or his legal representatives or assigns in a foreign country prior to the date of the application for patent in this country on an application for patent or inventor's certificate filed more than twelve months before the filing of the application in the United States, or (e) the invention was described in a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or on an international application by another who has fulfilled the requirements of paragraphs (1), (2), and (4) of section 371(c) of this title before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or (f) he did not himself invent the subject matter sought to be patented, or (g) before the applicant's invention thereof the invention was made in this country by another who had not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed it. In determining priority of invention there shall be considered not only the respective dates of conception and reduction to practice of the invention, but also the reasonable diligence of one who was first to conceive and last to reduce to practice, from a time prior to conception by the other.


Section 103 provides:


a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negated by the manner in which the invention was made. (b) (1) Notwithstanding subsection (a), and upon timely election by the applicant for patent to proceed under this subsection, a biotechnological process using or resulting in a composition of matter that is novel under section 102 and nonobvious under subsection (a) of this section shall be considered nonobvious if - (A) claims to the process and the composition of matter are contained in either the same application for patent or in separate applications having the same effective filing date; and (B) the composition of matter, and the process at the time it was invented, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person. (2) A patent issued on a process under paragraph (1) - (A) shall also contain the claims to the composition of matter used in or made by that process, or (B) shall, if such composition of matter is claimed in another patent, be set to expire on the same date as such other patent, notwithstanding section 154. (3) For purposes of paragraph (1), the term ''biotechnological process'' means - (A) a process of genetically altering or otherwise inducing a single- or multi-celled organism to - (i) express an exogenous nucleotide sequence, (ii) inhibit, eliminate, augment, or alter expression of an endogenous nucleotide sequence, or (iii) express a specific physiological characteristic not naturally associated with said organism; (B) cell fusion procedures yielding a cell line that expresses a specific protein, such as a monoclonal antibody; and (C) a method of using a product produced by a process defined by subparagraph (A) or (B), or a combination of subparagraphs (A) and (B). (c) Subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under subsection (f) or (g) of section 102 of this title, shall not preclude patentability under this section where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.


Guide to Preparing and Filing A Patent Application

The Patent Application Forms

The Statutory Fees That Must Be Paid to the Patent Office



HOW IS A PATENT OBTAINED. You must file a patent application that describes your invention with sufficient detail so one skilled in the art can practice your invention. The mere filing of the patent application however, will not guarantee that you will receive a patent for your invention. In this regard, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will assign a patent examiner to review your application and to make a determination whether your invention is novel, is nonobvious and has utility. Once the patent granting authority determines that your idea has utility, is novel and nonobvious a patent may be granted. Remember ideas alone are not protectible! What is protectible is an idea that has utility, that is novel, non-obvious and that when described in a written document, called a patent application, can be practiced. In short then, to protect your idea a patent application must be prepared and filed with a patent granting authority, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and determined by that authority to be patentable.

What Does it Cost to Obtain a Copyright     WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT. A copyright protects writings and artistic works against copying. Several classifications of works are specified under the copyright statutes and include, but are not limited to, literary works, dramatic works, musical works, including music and lyrics, computer programs,video recordings, and artistic expressions. Copyrights are directed to forms of expression rather than utility subject matter. For example, the description of an article of manufacture or a process, could be copyrighted as a writing for preventing others from copying such a description. However, the copyright will not prevent others from making the article or using the process.  
Where Can I Get Copyright Registration Forms     HOW IS A COPYRIGHT OBTAINED. A copyright is obtained the moment the expression is created so that it may be perceived either directly or through the aid of a machine or device. After creation of the copyrighted work, it may be registered by filing an appropriate copyright registration form with the United States Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.  
What Does it Cost to Obtain a Trademark    

WHAT IS A TRADEMARK OR SERVICE MARK. A trademark relates to identification of a product by means of a name or symbol that is not descriptive of the product, and which is used in the streams of commerce to identify the source or manufacturer of the product. Trademark rights are based on first use in commerce and will prevent others from selling similar products using the same name or symbol, or any confusingly similar name or symbol. A trademark will not prevent others from making the same goods or products. Trademarks may be registered with the Secretary of State when used in intrastate commerce and with the United States Patent and Trademark Office when used in interstate commerce. A service mark is similar to a trademark except that it relates to the identification of a service rather than a product.
Where Can I Get Trademark Registration Forms    


When one opens a business to sell products or services it is ordinary and customary for the owner to select a name for the business, or it product(s). If the name selected is not descriptive of the business or the product, the name may function as a service mark or trademark. The mere use of such a name, does not by itself guarantee that the owner will be able to continue to use the name. In this regard, another business may have begun using the same or similar name earlier and thus, would have priority to the use of the mark on its products or services. As large sums of money may be expended in advertising to cause the public to identify the products and services of a given business, it becomes important for the business to verify that a selected name is available prior to the actual use of the name. A trademark or service mark search should be undertaken to verify that the mark is not already in use. Once a favorable trademark availability report is obtained, the owner should seek to register the mark with the appropriate state agency if the mark is used with a single state only or alternatively, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office if the mark is used in interstate commerce. Registration of a mark is achieved by filing a trademark or service mark application with the appropriate state government agency.