When you create something and obtain a patent on it, you likely feel confident that you are protected. However, it is important to note that your patent rights do not last forever; they are only good for a limited period of time. This is why it is extremely important that you are aware of when your patent expires. The patent’s date of expiration depends upon when the patent application was filed, and what type of patent it concerns (utility, design, or plant).
The most common type of patent is a utility patent. These patents have protection that lasts for 20 years from the date of the patent application filing.
Design patents have protection for 15 years from the date of when the patent was granted.
Plant patents receive 20 years of protection from the date of the patent application filing.
However, a patent can be found to be invalid earlier than its period of protection has ended. When a patent has been found to be invalid, the patent protection will end immediately. As an example, a patent can be found invalid by a Court if the Court determines that the patent is obvious in view of prior art. Additionally, a patent term may end sooner if a Court finds that the patent applicant conducted fraud against the U.S. Patent Office during application for the patent.
There are also maintenance fees that the USPTO requires in order for the patent to remain active. When a patent owner makes the decision not to pay these fees, the patent will expire. The fees are due three and a half years, seven and a half years, and 11½ years after the patent is granted. If the inventor has found the invention has failed to be profitable, he or she may choose not to pay the fees.
Any inventions that are covered by an expired or invalidated patent will fall into the public domain. In other words, the invention could be used by anyone, without restriction to their use.
The only way that the inventor can bring an infringement action against someone else after the patent expires is if the infringements began within the time the patent was valid, and in force. However, there is only a limited time after the patent expires to file a suit.
Scully, Scott, Murphy & Presser Can Help Protect Your Inventions and Your Rights
If you or a loved one has a product or procedure that you wish to have protected, or if you have an existing patent that you believe is being infringed upon, it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced patent attorney in order to determine what your options may be.
At Scully, Scott, Murphy & Presser, our qualified patent attorneys can help you to navigate the patent application process or can help to defend your patent and your rights regarding any infringement. To learn more about the patent prosecution process or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!
Posted in: Patents