United States Patent Information

As in other legal jurisdictions, a United States patent grants its holder an exclusionary right. This right excludes others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States. A United States patent does not grant a positive right to use. Third party patents can, therefore, exist which preclude a use despite the existence of an issued United States patent. It is therefore important to clarify the patent landscape by conducting a patent search before filing for United States patent protection.

Many good reasons exist to file and prosecute patent applications in the United States. The most important include:

  • You require an exclusionary right for your invention because you want to sell your inventive products in the United States either directly or through a third party;
  • You want to avoid infringement actions;
  • You want to earn income through licensing fees;
  • You neither seek to sell products nor to grant licenses, but want to prevent competitors from obtaining their own patents for their inventions and in-house knowledge;
  • You want to be well equipped for a possible future market entry in the United States; or
  • You want to build up a patent portfolio to attract investment capital.

You should be aware of the following about United States patents before filing a United States patent application.

United State patent law provides that patent protection can be granted if an invention is novel and non-obvious.  United States patents generally have a term of 20 years measured as of their effective United States filing date.  United States patent law is federal law.  An issued United States patent is therefore valid throughout the United States and its territories and possessions.  A single United States patent thus covers all 50 of the United States.

In return for receiving the grant of a United States patent, the inventor must disclose the invention so that a person of "ordinary skill in the art" can make and use the invention without “undue experimentation.” This requirement, which is strictly construed under United States patent law, seeks to ensure that research and the state of the art is promoted via the patent. Critical problems can arise if the invention is not fully disclosed or if other vital information is withheld or concealed in an application. A patent can be understood as a contract or a bargain between the inventor/applicant and the State. The inventor obtains an exclusionary right for the invention in the United States in return for the legally adequate disclosure of the invention and the knowledge associated therewith.

The decision to file and prosecute a United States patent application represents a key investment decision. The process of filing for United States patent protection should not be taken lightly, but must be pursued seriously with professional support. The cost and complexity associated with the United States patent application process often deters many German and European inventors/applicants from seeking United States patent protection at all. The admonition of Otto Erich Häußler, former President of the German Patent and Trademark Office, should therefore be taken to heart. Mr. Häußler let it be known that "Those who fail to invent, disappear. Those who fail to patent, lose." In other words, if you fail to apply for patent protection in the United States, you will already have shared your invention and your research with your competitors. In the biggest market worldwide. For free.