A patent is a property right that gives the holder the exclusive right to exclude others from the manufacture, use, or sale of the product or invention. The subject matter being patented is described in the patent’s claims and protected if a patent is issued. Therefore, if, for example, you were the inventor of the remote control copy machine and you had a patent on the invention no one else could manufacture or sell such a product.
To obtain a U.S. Patent, you must file an application with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). For information on the USPTO and filing a patent, go to the USPTO Web site or visit a patent and trademark library in your area.
The application for a patent is a complex document and typically requires that you file through a patent lawyer or patent agent. They are licensed to appear before the USPTO. There are over 21,000 licensed patent attorneys and nearly 7,000 licensed patent agents, and the USPTO website can help you in your search for one.
Once you have filed your patent application, you can expect a long wait, which may be several years. According to the USPTO, they receive over 300,000 applications each year, primarily for non-provisional utility patents. Applicants are given an application number, which includes a six-digit serial number and a two-digit series code. The application is reviewed and a patent is then either granted or denied.
While you await the acceptance or rejection of your patent application, you (or preferably your patent attorney or agent) can inquire on the status of such an application. You can also use the words “patent pending” while marketing and selling your invention. This does not protect you legally but it might ward off others who are looking to create a similar product. Conversely, it might encourage a competitor to create a product that serves a similar function but is unique enough not to be construed as a copy of your product.
If two people team up to invent something that they want patented, they can file one claim together and they will receive a joint patent for the invention if it is accepted.