A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.
The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell, or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without the aid of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Throughout the world the first party responsible for filing a patent application is the undisputed owner of the invention. The United States has a one-year time period to file a patent application. This period begins at the formal presentation of the invention. A formal presentation of an invention includes any publication, journal, conference presentation, poster session, newspaper article, Internet publication on a Web page, blog, listserve, etc. In most other countries, you are banned from obtaining patent protection once an invention has been publicly disclosed.
You must file in the United States within one year of the first disclosure of the invention — filing of a provisional application may protect international rights.
It takes an extended period of time to obtain a patent. The patent application can be kept secret while it is pending if you request it; otherwise, it is published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 18 months after filing.
United States Patent and Trademark Office
USPTO guide to types of Patents
University of Delaware Intellectual Property Policy
USPTO: Laws, Regulations, Policies, Procedures, Guidance, and Training
OWNER: United States Patent and Trademark Office
RESPONSIBLE OFFICE: Research Office