Definition And Rights

A U.S. patent is actually a contract between the inventor and the people of the United States represented by the government and specifically by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The right conferred on the inventor is the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing that which is covered in the claims of the patent. Such rights are actually negative rights in the sense that the patentee is not given the right to do anything except exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a limited period of time. Typically, but with certain exceptions, U.S. patents expire 20 years from the filing date of the application for patent. One such exception relates to patents involving drugs or any medical device, food additive, or color additive subject to regulation under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or the Virus-Serum-Toxic Act for veterinary biological products, where it is possible to recapture that portion of the patent term, up to a maximum of 5 years, that was lost because of delays resulting from the Food and Drug Administration's or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's review prior to approving commercial marketing or use of the drug, medical device, food additive, color additive, or biological product.

As in any contract each party is to receive something of value and each party is to give up something of value in exchange. In exchange for the rights granted by the government, the inventor is required to provide a disclosure of the invention. This is the inventor's "consideration" or "value" given up as part of the contractual relationship. The disclosure of the invention is made available to the public when the patent issues (that is, is granted by the government). This disclosure of the invention by the inventor must be a full description of the invention.

The general subject matter to which patents are directed is considered to be the useful arts. In particular patents are granted for inventions directed to processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvements thereof. Printed copies of granted patents can be purchased from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for $3.00 per copy.

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