A U.S. patent is a grant of property rights for an invention,which is given by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If you receive a patent, it will prohibit anyone else from making, using, or selling your invention in the U.S. nationwide.
Under U.S. patent law, only the patent holder retains these exclusive rights. Others may only obtain these rights with the authorization of the patent holder, which is generally given through a patent license agreement.
Because the nationwide rights granted under patent law give the patent holder the exclusive rights to make, use, or sell the invention, anyone else doing so during the term of the patent is subject to infringement. If a patent is infringed upon, a patent holder may sue in the appropriate court of law. The patent holder may ask a court for an injunction to prevent the continued infringement, as well as an award for damages incurred.
A court will determine infringement by analyzing the language of the original patent claim. However a court may determine that, due to a difference in language between the original patent claim, and the invention which the defendant has made use of, that no infringement occurred.
Under U.S. patent law, different types of patents have different terms in length. While a utility or plant patent may last up to 20 years, a design patent term is 14 years from the patent grant.
How can I know if an invention has already been patented?
To find out whether an invention or idea has already been patented, you can search a nationwide database of existing patents at the USPTO Patent Search Room, or at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in your area. You may also conduct a search via the Internet at the USPTO website. However, if you are unable to conduct a thorough search, are unsure of the strength of your patent, or if you would like to know more about the laws and procedures involved with acquiring a patent, you should seek counsel from a professional patent attorney.