The Catholic University of America

US Patent Information

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U.S. Patent Information
Application Procedure
Elements of Patentability
Types of Patents
U.S. Patent Definition
A patent is essentially a contract between a government and an inventor. The contract grants the inventor rights to exclude anyone else from making, selling or using the invention as defined in the patent for a definite period of time.

During this period of time, the inventor is afforded legal recourse through the court system against anyone found infringing the inventor's monopoly over the invention. When the term of a patent expires, the invention becomes public property, and is available for manufacture, sale or use by anyone.

A patent may be granted for any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement on an invention. A patent may also be granted for certain distinctive and new plant varieties, microorganisms, or animals. The invention must not have been previously known or used in the United States, or described in any printed publication more than one year prior to the patent application.

Patents are granted to the first, original inventor or joint inventors. Where independent inventors file separate patent applications to the same invention, a patent will be granted to the inventor who can establish that he/she was the first original inventor. Evidence used to demonstrate this frequently consists of documentation of his/her laboratory work in laboratory notebooks. Therefore, it is extremely important that, as an invention is fully conceived in operating form, the inventor take steps to properly document his or her work. Documentation detailing the progress of the research must be done according to specific rules to ensure that the contents will constitute legal evidence in a patent proceeding.