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What are patents?

Patents are legal protections that give the inventors of intellectual property the right to keep others from misusing their property over a 20-year period from the application file date. Misuse means no one other than the inventors can manufacture, use, offer to sell or sell the invention. Inventors in New York and other U.S. states have the right to apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for patents on new, non-obvious and useful inventions.

There are three patent types, including plant, utility and design. Plant patents are for the invention or discovery of new or distinct asexually reproduced plant varieties. Utility patents are for people who invent or discover new, useful compositions of matter, machines, processes or articles of manufacture. Design patents are for inventors of new or original designs for articles of manufacture.

While 20 years from the filing date is the general length of new patents, the same term may start from the earlier filing date of a related application under special circumstances, pending the receipt of upkeep fees. Patents that are applied for and granted in the United States are only effective on U.S. possessions and only offer patent protections in the United States and U.S. territories.

Individuals and small businesses that need help with filing patent applications for intellectual property could get information from the USPTO Inventors Assistance Center. The examiners at the center can provide answers to general questions regarding the policies and procedures for patent examinations. If the individuals or businesses believe that other parties have infringed upon their patent approvals, they could contact private lawyers to help them determine the best course of action, such as legal claims, for their specific situation and needs.

Source: Stop, "Learn About Intellectual Property (IP)", October 28, 2014

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