Now that we know what types of works are patentable, and how patent prosecution works, the next topic is what rights an inventor obtains once the patent is issued, and how long the inventor gets to enjoy those rights.
Generally speaking, a patent owner has the right to exclude others from certain engaging in certain activities involving the invention. For instance, the patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, or offering to sell his patented invention. However, there are three important observations to be made up front. First, the inventor’s rights do not include general ownership of the invention. Second, “infringement" only occurs within the United States. Finally, the inventor’s rights only last for a limited period of time.
For example, if Inventor obtains a patent over a new computer, Inventor has the right to exclude others from making, using, or offering to sell the computer. However, a person does not infringe Inventor’s patent by simply possessing the computer. Furthermore, a person does not infringe Inventor’s patent even if she is making, using, or selling the computer, if she is doing so in another country. Lastly, a person does not infringe Inventor’s patent even if she is making, using, or selling the computer in the United States, if Inventor’s patent protection has expired.
This leads to the obvious question of how long patent protection lasts. Generally speaking, patent protection lasts for roughly 20 years. Patent protection ends 20 years after the initial application was filed. For example, if an application was submitted on June 1, 2002, even if the patent was not issued until May 1, 2003, patent protection would end on June 1, 2022. In that situation, patent protection would last for 19 years and 1 month.
This concludes my blog series on intellectual property. Intellectual property is an amazing area of law, which is constantly evolving. If you have any questions or concerns regarding intellectual property please feel free to email me at the address provided below.