For inventors and prospective patent holders, the process of applying for and securing a patent can be hindered by some common misconceptions. Becoming familiar with popular myths relating to the extent of patent protection and the means and processes for the enforcement of rights can be beneficial in proceeding with the process of securing a patent.

Patent protection extends to accompanying illustrations. Supplemental diagrams and illustrations that are included in a patent application to elaborate on the claims set forth therein do not receive patent protection. The claims outlined in the application should be clearly and precisely defined since patent protection covers only the language in the claims segment.

Alternatively, diagrams and drawings submitted with patent applications may be eligible for copyright protection and accompanying designs may qualify for a design patent. For example, Coco-Cola was granted a design patent for the unique shape of its bottle.

Patent rights are self-enforcing. Once a patent is issued, enforcement of the rights conferred by the patent is the responsibility of the patent holder. The granter of patents, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), does not prosecute patent infringers in the event of a violation. The patent holder must actively identify and purse potential infringers at his own risk and expense.

Products that have not entered the market are patentable. According to the USPTO, an invention cannot be patented if it was described in any prior printed publication, even if it was never sold or made available to the public. Thus, an invention that is merely different or previously delineated in print is not sufficient for patent protection.

Patents confer an exclusive right to make, use and sell the invention. A patent provides its owner only with the right to exclude others from making, using and selling the precise invention covered in the patent’s claims. Others may be able to use the patented invention or preclude you from using your invention if the prior patent is more expansive in the invention it covers.

John Connors is an intellectual property attorney with decades of experience in registering patents and enforcing patent rights. Connors & Associates provides expert legal and business advice through an international network of attorneys specializing in all types of intellectual property law. Contact us at (949) 833-3622 or visit Connors & Associates online to learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation.

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