Patent Attorney Dallas and Fort Worth

Patent Lawyer in Texas

In the Information Age, ideas can be transmitted at the speed of light, and if your proprietary information isn’t protected, it can be stolen just as quickly. Whether you intend to develop your invention or sell your concept to an outside interest, a patent gives you the assurance that the only one who can profit from your intellectual property is you or the people you give permission to. But the U.S. patent process can be both confusing and time-consuming for the uninitiated. A U.S. patent attorney can help you ensure that your intellectual properties are legally protected from theft and counterfeiting.

Basics of Patent Law

What Can You Patent?

Not everything can be patented, but the qualifications are sufficiently broad to encompass nearly any original invention. In order to be a qualified material, your invention must meet the following criteria:

  1. It must be what’s legally defined as a process, machine, material, product, or a method or process that improves an existing invention.
  2. The invention must have a purpose.
  3. Your invention must be novel. In other words, it can’t be something that’s obvious to nearly anyone.
  4. Your invention must be new as defined by the patent law. That means that you can’t patent an item that’s already available for public use. It also can’t be something that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) already has an application for.

How Does a Patent Protect Your Invention?

Once you’ve submitted a patent application to the USPTO for review, you have a “patent pending.” That means that if someone else tries to implement your idea, they can be sued for any damages that accrued after the date of the application filing. It also means that another inventor with the same idea or concept can’t come after you and get a patent for your invention. If someone tries to steal or use your patented invention, a U.S. patent lawyer can file an injunction and pursue damages from the violator.

The Importance of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a catchall term that refers to inventions, art, writing, computer programs, brands, et cetera. Patents specifically protect inventions and innovations. The concept of intellectual property is vital to patent protection. If you have an idea for a physical invention or a new process, it has value to you because it has the potential for you to make money. That’s also true, however, for anyone who has the desire to make a profit from your idea. By legally identifying something as intellectual property, we recognize that it has value and can be protected.

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How the Patent Process Works

Whether you are going to file your patent application with an attorney or you’re going to attempt to learn about the patent process and do it on your own, it’s important to keep your proprietary information secret until you’re able to submit your application and legal protections become applicable. Before you submit an application, your intellectual property is essentially unprotected, and recovering damages is problematic.

Before You Apply

 

  • Document Your Invention – While you’re developing your invention and preparing your application for patent, you should keep meticulous records and make certain that they are in a secure location. This could be vital for if there are any future court challenges to your patent.
  • Make Sure Your Invention Qualifies – Your invention must be new, useful, and not obvious to members of the general public. If you have any concerns about this, you should consult a U.S. patent attorney.
  • Do a Patent Search – It’s important that you don’t expend time, energy, and money trying to get a patent for something that’s already protected under the law. Patent research can be time-consuming, but it will also save you time and possibly professional embarrassment before the application process. More importantly, even if a similar patent exists, your invention may still be patentable if you modify it to make it significantly different.

 

The Application Process

There are two types of patent applications:

 

  • Provisional Patent Application (PPA) – With a provisional patent application, you can protect your invention for a period of twelve months and claim that there’s a “patent pending” on your product. If you haven’t filed for a regular patent application in twelve months, the provisional patent application expires, and your invention will be unprotected. A PPA can’t mature into a patent.
  • Nonprovisional Patent Application (NPA) – As you might imagine, a nonprovisional patent has numerous requirements, but this will lead to a patent on your invention.

 

 

Patent attorneys will often apply for a PPA while their clients work on organizing their information for the NPA. This two-tier process is designed to protect the invention under the PPA while the applicant is preparing the more involved NPA application.

 

There are also three general categories of patents. While the concepts are simple, you’ll need to know which type of patent you’re seeking.

Design

Design patents protect the physical appearance of the invention. This type of patent is particularly useful in protecting an item from being visually counterfeited and marketed as the product or a close facsimile of the product.

Utility

A utility patent provides legal protection for the working functions of an invention. Utility patents are used to stop others from “reinventing” what’s essentially the same product by closely mimicking the original.

Plant

According to the USPTO, a plant patent protects agriculturists and other botanical inventors who have “invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant.”

What Can I Patent?

In order to obtain a patent in the United States, your invention must be:
  1. A process, a machine, a manufacture, or a composition of matter. These are further defined in the patent regulations:
  2. Process: A mode of treatment of certain materials to produce a given result. It is an act, or a series of acts, performed upon the subject-matter to be transformed and reduced to a different state or thing.
  3. Machine: A concrete thing, consisting of parts, or of certain devices and combination of devices.
  4. Manufacture: A tangible article that is given a new form, quality, property, or combination through man-made or artificial means.
  5. Composition: A combination of two or more substances and includes all composite articles.
  6. Novel or new—not covered under an existing patent.

 

This is referred to as the two-part test and it’s used by the USPTO to evaluate the validity of the inventions under review.

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What Can’t I Patent?

The fact that your invention must be a process, a machine, a manufacture, or a composition of matter might seem a bit restrictive, but inventions tend to fall into the broad definitions of one of those categories. It also may seem like you have to physically develop a prototype to obtain a patent, but that’s not the case. You can patent designs for an invention or process whether or not you’ve actually made it or implemented it. With that said, not everything can be patented.

 

Abstract Ideas

Because the courts recognize that the availability of basic concepts are important to the furtherance of knowledge and invention, inventors may not invent an abstract idea. Inventors can, however, patent an application of an abstract idea. For example, no one can obtain a patent for space travel, but they can get a patent for a particular type of rocket.

 

Laws of Nature and Natural Phenomena

As is the case with abstract ideas, the USPTO does not issue patents for the laws of nature, natural phenomena, or the products of nature. Natural occurrences, like light, sound, and gravity can’t be the subjects of a patent application, but flashlights, speakers, and jet packs can.

 

How do I get a Patent?

If you believe that you have a proprietary invention that isn’t similar in design and function to something that’s already been invented, and it qualifies as eligible subject matter, you can apply for a patent. Here are a few questions that you should consider before submitting your application:

  • Provisional patent application, nonprovisional patent application, or both? Once you file a PPA, the clock starts ticking for your protection. You’ll need to at least submit your NPA in a year’s time or your invention will be unprotected.
  • Should I Hire a Registered Patent Practitioner? The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a registration process for attorneys who represent inventors and companies in their pursuit of patents. Applying for a patent and obtaining one is a rigorous, confusing process, and it’s recommended that you hire a patent lawyer to cut down on the possibility of mistakes delaying or sabotaging your application. Anything you discuss or show your attorney is covered under attorney-client privilege, and all effective patent lawyers recognize the need for secrecy with regard to inventions.
  • What’s the Marketability of My Invention? Just because you have an idea for something novel doesn’t mean that it will have financial value. You should try to determine how you intend to monetize your invention as early in the process as possible.

Your Role in the Process

Source: USPTO – Ownership/Assignability of Patents and Applications

You don’t necessarily have to be an inventor to obtain a patent. The law recognizes several categories of applicants:

 

  • Inventor – The inventor can be a person, team, or a corporation, but the inventor is the entity responsible for the creation of the invention.
  • Owner – The inventor doesn’t automatically own the right to the product or patent. In many cases, an inventor is working for an employer who legally has the right to anything invented by that employee.
  • Client – If the inventor is in the employment of the client, the client will generally have contractual ownership of the invention if it’s within the scope of that legal arrangement.

Receiving Approval for a Patent

Patent Examination Process

The USPTO outlines the steps that your patent application goes through before it can be approved and you receive a patent. The good news is that unless your patent is eventually rejected, your invention is protected from the point that it comes under review.

Prior Art

Before the Patent Office can move forward with your application, the examiner will review both approved and abandoned applications. If your invention matches “prior art,” it will be ineligible for patent.

Points of Novelty

In order to obtain a patent, the description of your invention must be both novel and distinct. Without examining the points of novelty, the USPTO would be issuing patents for wide categories of products, which could make pursuing claims problematic. In addition, the patent examiner must have a clear understanding of what your invention does and how it is different from existing inventions.

Enablement Requirement

Your invention has to be something that someone “skilled in the art” can make and use. This caveat ensures that the invention can be communicated to the public in a meaningful way.

Maintaining a Patent over Time

Patents are issued for periods of four, eight, and twelve years. In order to extend your patent, you’ll need to submit the maintenance fee. You can pay six months before the expiration date to renew your patent. If your patent expires, you can petition for reinstatement, but your invention will remain unprotected until the time when it’s approved.

Overseas Patent Protection

Depending on the type of product and the scope of the market you’re envisioning, you may require patent protection in non-U.S. markets. Unfortunately, a U.S. patent only protects you in the United States and the territories it has jurisdiction over. That may not be sufficient to protect your intellectual property.

Eldredge Law Firm Provides Patent Law Services to Clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, Texas Areas

With offices throughout Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, and Denver, the intellectual property lawyers of the Eldredge Law Firm provide a number of patent services to our clients, including application reviews, filings, and renewals.  

We are professional patent litigation attorneys and engineers who understand the need for secrecy around the patent process. We’re also equipped to protect our clients’ intellectual property rights by filing injunctions, obtaining emergency court orders, and pursuing claims for damages.

Avoid complications that can cause delays and denials at the United States Patent and Trademark Office with patent attorneys who are also registered patent practitioners. Call us to set up a free private consultation with one of our U.S. patent lawyers.

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Eldredge Law Firm 777 Main Street, Suite 600, Fort Worth, TX 76102, United States

Phone: (844) 728-3680