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Prosecuting a patent doesn’t lead to indefinite protection

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Intellectual Property |

It can take years of research and development to create a new product or improve on existing manufacturing processes. Companies that invest in research and development or that purchase concepts from outside parties often need to take action to formally protect their intellectual property.

Patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can help protect the original concepts a business relies on to operate profitably. Patents can protect chemical formulas, manufacturing processes and unique product concepts. They can lead to lucrative licensing arrangements and help businesses maintain a competitive edge in an otherwise saturated market.

Most organizations seeking patents are aware that they do not last forever. Patents are a temporary form of protection, and they do eventually expire. Most patents last, at most, for 20 years. However, long before a patent actually ends, it could become unenforceable. Patent holders typically need to maintain their intellectual property protections in active ways or risk losing their ability to enforce a patent.

What does patent maintenance entail?

There are two key components to patent maintenance. To properly maintain a patent, the patent holder must file paperwork with the USPTO and must also pay fees. The fee amounts differ depending on which maintenance payment the patent holder intends to make and also the scope of the business.

An inventor who holds a single patent typically pays far less than a large business that maintains multiple separate patents. There is a six-month window within which it is possible to pay maintenance fees at different points during the existence of a patent. Any filing that takes place after that six-month window incurs additional surcharges.

Errors and omissions regarding the maintenance process for a patent could have major implications for a business. The patent could expire, requiring additional action to protect the company’s intellectual property. It can be very difficult to secure a patent and just as hard to maintain one. Therefore, many companies acquire assistance with both prosecuting and maintaining patents to ensure their full compliance with the law.

Properly maintaining a patent can be as important as following the right process when obtaining it initially. Businesses that have assistance maintaining their patents are often able to more effectively protect their intellectual property against infringement by other parties.