Patent Article

United States

There are two separate systems, for Invention Patents and for Design Patents. Invention Patents receive protection for 17 years, and Design Patents receive 3, 7 or 14 years protection, depending upon the period asked and the fee paid.

The patents are applied for in a formal manner, by establishing the name and location of the inventor, a brief description of the subject of the patent, then a detailed specification referring to accompanying drawings (if any), and finally the claims relating to the novel features of the patent. The claims are written by a Patent Attorney, usually couched in terms that provide little resemblance to the intended end-product, but are the most important legal part of the document. Upon receipt of the application, a serial number is assigned to the patent and Patent Office Examiners make an extensive examination and a comparison with earlier patents, to establish the unique quality of the claims before the patent is granted. At the time of the grant the patent receives its official number. This period of examination may last only for two or three months, but can last for several years if there is any question as to the validity of the claims.

The patent is dated from the date of the grant; not, as in most countries, from the date of the application.

Until ca.1940 manufactured patented objects, both Inventions and Designs, were marked with the patent date; this can lead to some confusion in a patent search. Later the full number was marked on the object, and Design Patent numbers were preceded by the letter D.


Invention Patents are dated from the day of submission of the Provisional Specifications, when the patent is assigned a number. Protection is provided for a period of 16 years, subject to paying the required annual fees. The Complete Specifications are provided soon after (or they may form the only specifications submitted); when granted, another number may be assigned. The system is generally far more complex than that of the United States.

Designs are registered in a different manner at the Public Record Office, and many changes occurred over a period of about 80 years. The protection is only one to three years.





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