Intellectual Property Frequently Asked Questions.
Patents protect “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” 35 U.S.C. § 101, or in the case of a design patent, “any new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture,” 35 U.S.C. § 171. A trademark or service mark is a distinctive word, phrase, logo, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services, respectively. A copyright protects creative expression including writing, recordings, artwork, films, software, and architecture. The term of a utility patent is 20 from the date of application. The term of a design patent is 15 years from the date of grant if filed on or after 5/13/2015, or 14 years from the date of grant if filed before then. The term of a trademark can be indefinite, provided that the proper maintenance documents are filed. The term of a copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years.
Any of following that are used to identify the source of a product or service and to distinguish it from competitors: names, logos, slogans, devices, words, phrases, graphic symbols, container shapes, sounds, colors, titles, and character names.
A provisional patent is essentially a placeholder. It allows an applicant to establish an effective filing date and to use the term “patent pending.” It is never examined and may even be filed without any claims. After 12 months, it expires, during which period of time it is necessary to file a regular utility patent application claiming priority to the provisional patent in order to retain the filing date of the provisional application.
A design patent protects “any new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture,” 35 U.S.C. § 171. It can include ornamental designs of all kinds, including surface ornamentation. It does not include any functional aspects of the design. The term of a design patent is 15 years from the date of grant if filed on or after 5/13/2015, or 14 years from the date of grant if filed before then.
It depends. The period of pendency from initial filing to issuance can vary widely depending on the type of patent filed and subject matter. For a relatively simple invention that encounters straight-forward prosecution, three years is common. A PCT application that is subject to hard-fought prosecution upon nationalization or continuation, possibly even including appeals, may be pending for six years or more.