If You Can Build It, We Can Protect It
Patents are essential to many businesses, and they are one of the most complex categories of intellectual property.
If you have developed a product, process,or an improvement therein, it is crucial to protect your work. At John C. Laurence Law, we have extensive experience developing, prosecuting, and enforcing patent rights. If you’re looking for a patent lawyer based in New York, we can help. We know how to protect your right to profit from your own ingenuity.
What Is a Patent?
A patent is a right the government gives an inventor to prevent others from making, selling, using, or importing their claimed invention for a certain number of years. To procure a patent, you have to file a patent application that discloses your invention with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents protect the way your invention functions. Design patents protect the ornamental elements of a product. Depending on your invention, you may need both a utility patent and a design patent. Plant patents protect distinct and new varieties of plants.
What Things Can Be Patented?
Not everything can be patented. An invention must meet several criteria to be patentable:
- It must be novel;
- It must be useful; and
- It cannot be obvious.
You cannot use a patent to protect an idea. Rather, a patent protects an embodiment of your idea. Patentable inventions include things like:
- Manufactured items;
- Methods and processes;
- Formulas and recipes; and
- Plants that are asexually reproduced.
You cannot patent naturally occurring substances, mathematical formulas, or processes performed entirely with the human body.
Some industries that most commonly use patents include:
- Electronics and electronic components,
- Online platforms,
- Data collection or management, and
An attorney can help you determine whether your business’s inventions, processes, or formulas can or should be patented.
Should You Patent Your Invention?
Even when patentable, not every invention should be patented. Although a patent will protect your invention, that protection does not last forever. Utility and plant patents have a term of 20 years, and design patents have a term of 14 years. And remember, to procure your patent, you need to disclose details about how your invention works, which will allow others to copy that invention after the term of your patent ends.
Inventions That Should Be Patented
So when should you patent your invention? You should get a patent if the nature of your invention makes it difficult or impossible for you to make, sell, or use it without having others copy you. For example, you might need a patent if:
- Your invention is likely to be reverse-engineered;
- Your invention will be seen by the public; or
- Your invention is likely to be independently discovered or developed by someone else.
You might also consider how long your invention is likely to be useful. Will you need to protect it for longer than 20 years? If not, the required disclosure is a small price to pay for the protection your patent will receive during the period of its usefulness.
Alternative to a Patent
The primary alternative to a patent is to treat your invention as a trade secret. Trade secrets can receive indefinite protection as long as you continue to keep them secret. One of the most famous examples is Coca-Cola, which has managed to keep its formula for Coke a secret for nearly 130 years.
To protect a trade secret, you typically need a combination of tight security and nondisclosure agreements. A New York patent lawyer can help you protect your trade secrets as well as your patents.
What Does a New York Based Patent Lawyer Do?
A patent lawyer based in New York, NY, can help you with anything related to a patent, including drafting and prosecuting a patent application and enforcing the claims in an issue patent.
The process of filing a patent application is complex. It is not something you want to handle on your own if you don’t have experience with patent applications.
Your patent application may include:
- A title;
- An abstract briefly describing the invention;
- Background on the invention;
- Information about the problem your invention will solve;
- A summary of how the invention works;
- A detailed description of how the invention works;
- Drawings of the invention and descriptions of the drawings; and
- Claims that define the scope of protection of your patent application.
You also have to sign an oath confirming that you are the person who created the invention, that you have disclosed all relevant information, and that you have verified the accuracy of the application.
Although this may seem like a simple step-by-step process at first glance, there are many simple errors that can lead the USPTO to reject your patent application. Additionally, some mistakes, particularly with respect to the claims in your patent application, may limit your ability to enforce your patent down the road.
Common mistakes include:
- Not being specific enough or being too specific;
- Not adequately describing your invention;
- Not including adequate drawings or not adequately describing the drawings;
- Drafting inadequate claims; and
- Not paying the right fees.
Not all errors involve the patent application itself. You can also damage your ability to obtain or protect your patent by:
- Failing to conduct a thorough patent search to identify potentially competing patents;
- Applying for the wrong type of patent; or
- Waiting too long after selling or disclosing your invention to file for a patent.
It is essential that you enlist a patent attorney to help you prepare your patent application. At the very least, you should have an attorney review the application before you file it with the USPTO.
Licensing or Selling Your Patent
Although you may intend to market and sell your invention yourself, many inventors make money by selling or licensing their patents.
Both licensing and selling a patent typically involve complex commercial contracts. Although you may be able to find online forms for purchase and licensing contracts, these forms are typically inadequate to fully protect your interests. When drafting a contract potentially worth thousands or even millions of dollars, it’s important to invest in legal help.
A New York based patent lawyer can help you determine the value of your patent, negotiate with the other party, and review or draft your purchase or licensing agreement. Your attorney can look for potential pitfalls in the agreement and make sure that the language accounts for events that may affect your rights in the future.
It is also essential to have legal help if you need to enforce your patent against infringement. It is a violation of your patent rights anytime someone makes, sells, imports, or uses your invention without permission.
With an infringement lawsuit, your New York based patent attorney can help you seek damages for any profits you lost as a result of the infringement as well as the amount the infringer would have reasonably paid as a royalty if they had licensed your patent. Additionally, under federal law, the court has the option to order an infringer to pay up to three times the amount of your actual damages.
Your New York based patent attorney can also help you argue against any defenses the infringer might raise to avoid liability. For example, the infringer might argue that the patent is invalid or that their use predated your patent. An experienced patent attorney knows how to combat these types of defenses and fight for the compensation you deserve.
What Is the Difference Between a Patent Attorney and a Patent Agent?
A person becomes a patent agent by passing the Patent Bar Exam. To sit for the exam, a person must have sufficient technical and scientific training to assist with patent applications—typically a bachelor’s degree in a scientific or technical field. Only patent agents can assist others with their USPTO patent applications.
All patent attorneys are also patent agents—they must pass the Patent Bar Exam, as well as their state’s general bar exam, to practice patent law. However, not all patent agents are attorneys. If you hire a patent agent who is not an attorney, they can help you with your patent application, but they cannot represent you in court or give you legal advice. This means that if you want to license or sell your patent or pursue a patent infringement lawsuit, you will need to find a licensed attorney to help you.
What Can John C. Laurence Law Do for You?
John C. Laurence is an experienced patent attorney based in New York, NY. He has a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and worked as an electrical and computer engineer for many years. He is a member of the New York State Bar and the Patent Bar and has prepared patent applications for numerous different types of inventions. John knows how to navigate the patent process, leverage your patent to earn money for you, and protect your patent from infringement. Contact John C. Laurence Law today online or by phone at 917-612-1059 to schedule a consultation.