It’s an exciting time when an inventor develops a solution to a problem not currently known in the marketplace. While the inventor may be eager to share his or her discovery with the world, it’s often necessary to seek out patent protection so that no one else can steal the product or formula before it’s truly “ready for primetime.”
However, even at the beginning stages, it’s important for inventors to keep in the back of their mind that patent protection will not last forever. Yes, you have may have a great product that could be worth a fortune and potentially change the world, but you will only be able to corner the market with your patent for a limited time.
The limited nature of how long your patent will be good for depends on the invention. In general:
- Plant Patents that cover new asexually reproduced or hybrid vegetation expire in 20 years.
- Design Patents that cover the ornamental appearance for an article, including its shape/configuration or surface ornamentation applied to the article expire in 15 years for applications filed on or after May 13, 2015.
- Utility Patents for machines, software, manufactured articles, etc. expire in 20 years from the date on which the earliest application for the patent was filed.
Exceptions to standard patent expiration dates do exist in the following circumstances:
- Extensions are sometimes granted in the pharmaceutical industry if FDA approval has stalled the marketing of the patented drug or formula. The extension of the patent is usually proportional to the delay experienced.
- If you fail to pay the maintenance fees required in the 3rd, 7th, and 11th year of your patent, your patent can end prematurely.
- A patent can be withdrawn or canceled prematurely during reexamination by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
When your patent ultimately expires, the protections you enjoyed from others not being able to copy or model your patented product or invention cease to exist. New inventors will be free to re-create and market your invention, and pricing may go down for the invention as it is no longer “one-of-a-kind.” Think of generic drugs. Nothing will stop you, however, from continuing to market the invention yourself as you did before the patent expired. You may simply face more competition.
Again, because patent protection is limited in duration, it’s critical to embark on your patent journey wisely and correctly from inception of the invention, through to the day your patent is granted. Rookie or other avoidable mistakes during the application process can cause delays, setbacks, and problems. This ultimately cheapens and weakens your patent, all while the clock keeps ticking until you no longer hold exclusive rights.
In a future post we will discuss trade secrets as an option to protecting your invention. If your invention is protectable via trade secrets it can potentially last longer without an expiration date (think formula for Coca-cola®).
Our patent attorneys can advise you on ways to pursue your patent that will set you up for the greatest chances of success and profitability during the limited time that you hold your patent. If you’d like to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can assist you, contact the Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC by calling (888) 666-0062.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC ©2017 All rights reserved