An Inventor’s Guide to Understanding Patents and Copyright Laws

Patents and copyright laws give the inventor the exclusive rights to the invention. No one else can produce the invention for a set period of time under patent and copyright law. Patents and copyright laws are set up to protect inventors. The law on patents can be found in the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 and in Title 35 of the United States Code.

The agency in charge of patent laws is a Federal Agency known as the Patent and Trademark Office. Anyone who applies for a patent will have their application reviewed by an examiner. The examiner will decide if a patent should be granted to the inventor. Individuals who have their patent application turned down can appeal it to the Patents Office Board of Appeals.

Just because someone has a patent does not mean they have the right to use, make or sell the invention. For instance, if a drug company comes up with a new drug, they can get a patent on it. However, it would not be available to be sold to the general public until the drug becomes approved by other regulatory bodies. Likewise, someone may invent an improvement to an existing product, yet they will not be allowed to produce or sell the item until they obtain a license to do so from the owner of the original patent holder.

For someone to receive a patent, as stated, they must fill out an application on their invention. The application will entail the details of the invention and how it is made. In addition, the person applying for a patent must make claims that point to what the applicant deems or regards as his or her invention. A patent may have many claims with it. The claims protect the patent owner and notify the public exactly what the individual has patented or owns.

If someone infringes upon patent and copyright law, it is usually enforced in a civil court setting. The owner of the patent will generally bring a civil lawsuit against the person who has infringed upon their patent and ask for monetary compensation. In addition, the patent owner can seek an injunction which would prohibit the violator from continuing to engage in any acts that would infringe upon their patent in the future.

Many patent owners will make licensing agreements (or contracts) with others. These agreements allow another person or company to use someone’s patented invention in return for royalties. In addition, some patent holders who are competitors may agree to license their patents to each other to expand both of their profits.

Most everything we use in our day to day life was invented by someone. That person had to seek out a patent for their invention. Patent and copyright laws protect inventors from having their ideas and inventions stolen out from under them. This makes the playing field more level for individuals. Without these laws, the marketplace would be out of control and the small guy would probably be eaten alive by big business.

Richard Cunningham is a freelance journalist who covers copyright law for www.ResearchCopyright.com. Download his free e-book, “Copyright Basics” at ResearchCopyright.com.

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