Intellectual Property Rights: Get a Patent for Clean Technologies?
I’m developing a new solar technology with a friend from grad school. We want to start commercializing it and seek investment but are nervous about telling anyone about it for fear of having someone else steal our idea. Should we patent it? If so, how long does the patent process take? Do I need a lawyer to get a patent?
You are right to be hesitant to share your technology. It may be difficult, however, to secure funding without sharing your invention with potential partners. Filing a patent application is one option you have to seek protection for your intellectual property assets.
A patent is a type of property right. It gives the patent holder the right, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing into the United States the subject matter that is within the scope of protection granted by the patent. The United States Patent and Trademark Office determines whether a patent should be granted in a particular case. It is up to the patent holder, however, to enforce his or her rights if the USPTO does grant the patent.
There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant; and there are two types of utility and plant applications: provisional and non-provisional. A provisional application is an inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention, which can be claimed in a later-filed non-provisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned 12 months after its filing date and is not examined. A non-provisional application is examined by a patent examiner and may be issued as a patent if all the requirements for patentability are met. Currently, the pendency averages about 35 months.
Although it is not required to retain a patent attorney or agent to obtain a patent, a patent application is a complex legal document, best prepared by one trained to prepare such documents. Likewise, the decision to go forward with a patent application should be made on a case by case basis, so contact a registered patent attorney or agent if you need more information. If you want to speak further, please email our registered patent attorney: email@example.com.
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