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Protecting Your Intellectual Property and Business with Patents

  • Learn the proper strategy for safeguarding your company’s intellectual property
  • For those starting or expanding a business
  • Protect your business’s ideas and products

If you develop a one-of-a-kind product or formulate a unique business idea, you’ll want to take steps to secure it as your own intellectual property. Patents have long been a valuable way for companies to safeguard their concepts and inventions.

Patents convey a property right to the holder, typically for a period of 20 years. Once you receive a patent, you get the exclusive rights to make and sell your invention.

There are three types of patents:

  • Utility patents, covering the invention or discovery of “any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter,” as well as any improvements to these items
  • Design patents, covering all new, original, and ornamental designs for manufactured items
  • Plant patents, for anyone who invents, discovers, and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recommends that inventors search existing patents to see if their idea has already been patented. While it is possible to search the database on your own, hiring a patent attorney may be a better strategy if you are not skilled in patent searches.

Once your application is received and approved, you’ll need to pay maintenance fees to extend patents at four-year intervals. If these payments are not made, the patent expires.

Visit the USPTO’s patent process overview to learn more about securing a patent.

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