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A Beginner’s Guide to Patents and Trademarks

If you are a creative person, you may come up with an invention that needs to be patented and trademarked. This will protect you and give you the right to prevent other people from making, selling, or using your invention for a period of time, normally 20 years. A trademark protects the name you use to identify your invention. This could be in the form of work, a symbol, or a sound. The United States has an agency called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that grants patents and trademarks.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a right that is granted to somebody who creates an invention. If you have invented something and are granted a patent, you have the right to prevent anyone else from making, selling, or using it for 20 years from the date of the application. If someone infringes on your rights, you can take them to court by filing a lawsuit.

There are three types of patents in the United States. The first is Utility Patents. This type of patent covers a new or improved product, process, or machine. It also has to be deemed useful. This kind of patent is sometimes called a “patent for invention.” This is the most common type of patent.

The second type of patent is a Design Patent. This covers the appearance of something that is manufactured. This could include the design of furniture, jewelry, or a computer icon. It lasts for 15 years, and it is not renewable.

The third and final type of patent is a plant patent, and it covers anyone who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant.

Who Needs a Patent?

If you invent something, you may need a patent. First, you need to make sure that your invention fulfills the requirements. It needs to fit the guidelines and be something new that is useful. If it is, then, you need to consider whether getting a patent will be of benefit to you or your business. It can be expensive to maintain a patent, so it needs to be important to you.

If it benefits your business, then you need to make sure that your invention is new. You can actually do a patent search to make sure that your invention is new. You can do a provisional filing if you want up to 12 months to decide whether it is worth the financial investment to file the patent, or you can file the patent application.

What Is a Trademark?

A trademark is a protection for a word, phrase, symbol, or design that you use to identify your products or services. It is your brand. It is what lets consumers know that anything under that trademark is made by your business. As long as you continue to use a trademark, it can last forever.

The US is the first-to-use country, so you do not have to register your trademark to be protected as long as you use it before anyone else. This is a common law right that you have. However, it is a good idea to register your trademark because it leaves no question of ownership.

Who Needs a Trademark?

You need a trademark if you want to register your brand name or logo. This will protect you so that someone else cannot start using your name. However, registering your trademark in the US will not protect you overseas. You will need to register it in every country where you plan to do business or want protection.

How to Apply for a Trademark

The first thing you need to do is decide what you want your trademark to be. You need to make sure that your trademark isn’t too similar to an existing trademark. If it sounds like another trademark and sells similar products, you cannot use it because it can be considered confusing to consumers.

You need to do a clearance search to make sure that your trademark is unique, and you can search federal, state, and common law trademarks before you get started. Next, you need to determine the format of your mark. This can be a standard mark with characters, a design or logo, or a sound. If you want to use more than one, you need to register all of them.

You can identify your goods or services, and you need to classify them. You will then be ready to fill out the trademark application, and you will work with the USPTO attorney until your trademark is either approved or denied. You need to continue to use your trademark to keep it active.

Protecting Your Patent and Trademark Rights

It is important to remember that the USPTO will grant or deny applications for patents and trademarks, but they do not protect your rights once you have them. They will try to make sure that nobody else files for your patent or trademark, but it is up to you to protect your rights.

If you find someone using your patented invention or your trademark, you need to bring legal action against them with an attorney that you hire. It is important to make sure that nobody is trying to profit off of your invention or your brand, so you should check periodically to make sure that this is not happening.

Protecting your inventions is important, but you need to make sure that it is worth the financial commitment. If your product gives you a competitive edge and qualifies for registration, it will allow you to prevent others from making, selling, or distributing your invention. However, it will not protect you from an infringement claim. The patent only allows you to prevent others from profiting from your invention.

If you plan to do business in other countries, you should file trademarks there as well. You can file through the World Intellectual Property Organization for all countries at once, or you can file in individual countries directly. This will protect your trademark anywhere you plan to do business.

Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions, Lori is now engaged in news and conceptual articles on the topic of business. If you are interested in an entrepreneur or lifestyle, you can find her on LinkedIn. She has good experience and knowledge in the field. 

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