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FAQ's

Patents and Patenting

 

A patent confers the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing an invention without the consent of the inventor and /or assignee. This legal monopoly is only available in the country in which a patent is granted.

Filing of a patent application is the first step in the very complex process of seeking patent protection.

A utility patent offers protection to new and useful processes, methods, machines, compositions of matter, or improvements thereof. Utility patent applications must meet requirements for novelty, utility and non-obviousness. U.S. utility patent applications will be prosecuted by a patent examiner from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

A provisional patent application establishes a priority date with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, but it does not elevate to the level of prosecution with a patent examiner. To take full advantage of the priority date established in a provisional patent application, a utility application must be filed within one year of filing a provisional application.

An invention is patentable if it is a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
Subject matter that is not eligible for patenting includes inventions that have been publicly disclosed or made commercially available for over a year, or inventions that do not meet statutory requirements for a patent. Although ideas and concepts are patentable, they must first be reduced to practice to meet patent criteria. Tangible works of expression, such as music and videos are not patentable but are eligible for copyright protection.

A patent is granted if the invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful. Novel, of course, means something entirely new. Useful means that there is beneficial and practical operability of the invention. Non-obviousness is achieved if someone who is skilled in the art would not have thought of the idea easily and is usually demonstrated by showing that the invention yields unexpected results.

 

The Patent Committee reviews and considers invention disclosures from the ECU community, and makes recommendations to OTT on the filing of patent applications. The Committee also makes recommendations on the expenditure of funds related to patent and license activity.

 

The Patent Committee consists of a multidisciplinary assembly of ECU faculty and staff charged with reviewing inventions that have passed OTT’s initial review. In addition to extensive training about the patent process, many committee members also have prior knowledge about patents and business activities related to patents. The criteria used by the Committee for review of new inventions is similar to those required by the USPTO (novelty, utility, non-obviousness) as well as market potential and maturity of the invention.

 

The inventor usually offers technical expertise to ECU’s patent attorney in the drafting and prosecution of a patent application. The inventor may also be asked to attend conferences and other meetings for the purpose of engaging industry experts about the subject matter of the invention. Once licensed to an industry partner or licensee, the inventor may offer further technical advice in the development of a commercial product.

 

Yes, several databases are now available to facilitate searches of existing patents. Among available databases are theUSPTO, European Patent Office, Google Patents, and many, many more. OTT offers tutorials to individuals interested in learning how to do patent searches.

 

The cost to file and prosecute a patent application is very expensive. Filing and prosecuting a patent application in the U.S. can cost as much as $30,000 or more. International patent filings are even more expensive as they cover a larger number of countries and often involve foreign attorneys and translators. Additionally, there are annual maintenance fees to keep patents alive.

 

No, ECU pays for all costs associated with the preparation, prosecution, and maintenance of the patent. ECU seeks reimbursement of patent costs through licensing with industry partners.

 

The time it takes to obtain a patent generally takes 2-5 years from the time a patent application is first filed.

 

Utility and plant patents expire 20 years from the date of filing the original application, unless the term is extended by the USPTO for excessive prosecution delays. Design patents have a 14 year term.