You have questions, we have answers.

Navigating the patent, trademark, and copyright processes can be complex. One of our goals is to make the process as transparent and understandable as possible.  Below we do our best to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding patents, trademarks, and copyrights.


A patent is a business asset, which provides a person or company with a limited monopoly of their invention. Specifically, a patent is a grant by the federal government of the right to prevent others from making, using or selling the invention protected by the patent.  In exchange for this limited “monopoly,” the inventor must disclose his/her invention in sufficient detail to allow others of ordinary skill in the given technological area to make, use and otherwise practice the invention once the patent expires.

There are three types of patents in the U.S. patent law; they include a utility patent, a design patent, and the lesser used plant patent.

A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. For example, a utility patent may be granted for mechanical, electrical and optical devices, manufacturing processes, chemical processing, chemicals, drugs, some forms of software, biologicals, biological testing, artificial organisms, genetics, and so on.

A design patent may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.  Design patents are particularly useful in protecting the shape or ornamentation associated with a new design of a product and can be used to protect design aspects associated with a graphical user interface (GUI).

It depends. A patent is a business asset.   You do not need a patent to practice a particular business or make and use a technology (although you may have to consider whether you are infringing another party’s patent).  If your business would benefit from having an exclusive right to the use of a technology or design then a patent may likely be a valuable asset.

Although not a requirement, it is often useful to perform a patentability search prior to filing a patent application.  The patentability search may help in identifying prior art references, which may act as an impediment to your patenting efforts.  In addition, a patentability search may be used to as a guide in helping you define the uniqueness of your invention.

A provisional patent application is particularly useful when financial resources are limited or development of the technology is ongoing. Formal requirements for a provisional patent application are relaxed relative to a non-provisional patent application and can generally be prepared at a lesser cost than a non-provisional patent application.  A provisional application may establish a priority date for an invention, acting as a one-year placeholder for the subsequently filed non-provisional patent application.

A non-provisional, or “regular” patent application, must include a formalized written description, formalized drawings, and claims.  The claims of the non-provisional patent application define the scope of the protection sought by the inventor and are the primary focus of examination by the USPTO.  The non-provisional patent application has a nominal term of 20 years from the date of filing and can be enforced against other parties to exclude them from practicing the invention, which is set out in the “claims” of the patent.

The filing of a patent application (provisional or non-provisional patent application) allows an applicant to label their products and/or services with the phrase “patent pending.” The application is still in the prosecution phase but it notifies others that the process of obtaining a patent has been initiated.

When a product is labeled “patented” it means the patent application associated with the technology has successfully traversed the prosecution process at the USPTO and the application has been issued as an enforceable patent.  An issued patent is a right of exclusion, which allows the owner or licensee of the patent to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing products or services that infringe on one or more claims contained in the issued patent.

The timing for getting a patent depends on a number of factors including the type of technology involved in the patent application.  In broad terms, typically the patenting process takes approximately 1 ½ to 3 years.


A trademark may refer to any word, name, symbol, logo, package design or a combination thereof which operates to identify and distinguish a source of the goods or services.

Trademarks are one of the most valuable assets of a business. In today’s world of startups, internet advertising, and marketing, it is more important than ever to have your brand and/or logo protected with a Federal Trademark Registration.

The ™ symbol is used for Trademarks. This is used in connection with an unregistered mark. It signifies a trademark application has been filed and is pending with the USPTO. This is often used as a preventative measure to inform would-be infringers that the item is claimed as a trademark. The use of this mark is not a guarantee that the goods will receive a registered trademark.

The ® symbol is used for Registered Trademarks. This can be used only after the USPTO officially registers the mark. This gives the user exclusive rights to use the mark on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the trademark registration.

The timing for getting a trademark depends on a number of factors.  In broad terms, typically the trademarking process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more.