U.S. patent laws are derived from the Constitution, where Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 states that “The Congress shall have power … To promote the progress of sciences and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” By giving the inventors of new and useful processes, machines, objects and compositions the right to benefit exclusively from their invention for a fixed number of years, patents encourage the growth of technology and creativity.
With the growth of globalization and new technologies and especially those connected to the Internet, patent and trademark laws and intellectual property laws have changed dramatically. Patent law specialists can help individuals and businesses to negotiate this complicated terrain to retain control over their technologies and work.
Patents and the state of the economy
Patents can be seen as indicators of the state of an economy. An increasing number of patents indicates technological progress and innovation. For example, between 1998 and 2010, patent applications in the U.S. doubled, to more than 520,000. And worldwide, there has been a 9% increase in patent applications over the year 2012 – 2013, with 2.6 million being filed in 2013.
At the present time, the U.S. ranks only ninth in the world in the total number of patents granted. This is an indication that it is facing some serious competition worldwide. Another trend noticed by patent lawyers is the increase in the number of patent lawsuits. Over the past 20 years, these have gone from 500 per year to nearly 3,000 per year on average. The increasing number of patents as well as worldwide competition have made patent law extremely complex.
Individuals and businesses wishing to protect their intellectual property should consult a patent attorney to ensure that there are no loopholes in their patent applications. It may be tempting for inventors to go it alone and file for their patents themselves. However without a detailed understanding of patent law, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong.
How long does a patent last?
Patent law allows for different terms for different types of patents. For a design patent, the term is 14 years, while for utility patents, the term is 20 years. The term of a patent can be extended. The term for copyrights is 70 years after the death of the author, according to the the Copyright Act of 1976. This applies to works created after January 1, 1978.
Copyrights for the type of work owned by small businesses last longer. Such works “made for hire” have a term of 95 years from the date of first publication, or 120 years from the year it was created, whichever expires first.
Patents and intellectual property can be seen as a form of wealth. The value of all the intellectual property in the U.S. is estimated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Intellectual Property Center to be between $5 trillion and $5.5 trillion. Companies that provide patent law and other services help to safeguard intellectual property and to fuel the creativity that drives the economy.