Scientists who are focused on their research in a laboratory may not be thinking ahead to the future business applications of their discoveries. But protecting the intellectual property developed in the lab should be a critical consideration for all scientists, whether they are working solo or are part of a large R&D department at a major corporation.
To that end, a basic understanding of patent law is helpful. Here is what every scientist needs to know about protecting his or her valuable IP.
What is a Patent?
A patent is the grant of a property right to an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a certain period of time. Patents are granted by patent authorities in individual countries or regions, so a U.S. patent protects inventions only within the United States and its territories.
Protecting intellectual property through the use of patents has a long tradition in the United States, dating back to the U.S. Patent Act of 1790. The language of the law itself clearly spells out the purpose of a patent, which is “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States…” Patents protect more than just tangible products or compositions; they also can be used to protect methods or processes.
Three Types of U.S. Patents
In the United States, federal law recognizes three types of patents:
- Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
- Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
- Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
To learn more about patents and other intellectual property protections, check out our FAQ section.
The patent attorneys and patent agents at Panitch Schwarze have decades of experience in working with inventors to protect their hard-won discoveries through the use of patents and other means. Call our Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware IP attorneys for a consultation today at 888-291-5676.