How Long Does Patent Protection Last?

How Long Does Patent Protection Last?

Understanding Patent Law

Patent law is a focused legal field that protects inventors' rights to their creations. It's crucial for safeguarding innovative ideas & inventions from unauthorized use, and it's the realm where patent & trademark attorneys work nonstop to defend inventors' rights and innovations.

Facing a patent legal issue can be challenging, and if you are in need of a patent attorney, contact Gearhart Law at 908-273-0700 today. 

Different Types of Patents

In patent law, there are various types of patents with different protection levels. Two main types are design patents and utility patents.

Design Patents

Design patents guard the unique appearance or design of a manufactured item. They usually offer less protection than utility patents; however, they are essential in stopping others from using or selling the design without the inventor's consent.

Utility Patents

Utility patents offer wider protection and are for inventions with practical applications that have some utility. These patents protect the functional aspects of new processes, machines, matter compositions, manufactured articles, and any improvements made.

Getting a utility patent can be rewarding but also can be complicated, and it could take several years. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) supervises this process and rigorously examines each application to confirm the invention fulfills the necessary criteria before awarding a patent. This process, known as patent prosecution, consists of multiple steps, such as filing the application, examination, and possible appeals.

Duration of Patent Protection

Utility patents generally last for 20 years from the filing date. This span allows inventors to benefit from their ideas without competition and promotes more innovation. Nonetheless, itu2019s worth noting that keeping a patent also involves managing continuous maintenance and renewal obligations.

Design patents, in contrast, protect for a shorter time, usually 15 years from the grant date. Despite the shorter term, they still afford valuable protection for an inventionu2019s design elements.

Conducting Prior Art Searches

Before sinking time and resources into getting patent protection, itu2019s smart to carry out a prior art search. This search finds any existing patents, patent applications, or other public information that might resemble the invention. Through a comprehensive patent search, potential legal hurdles can be spotted early, allowing inventors to craft their products or processes to avoid infringement.

Tips to Avoid Infringement

To steer clear of violating existing patents, perform meticulous patent searches before creating a new product or process. If any non-expired patents seem closely connected to the invention; perform a detailed infringement analysis. If potential infringement is discovered; inventors can 'design around' the existing patents by altering their invention to ensure it doesn't fall within the existing patentu2019s scope.

Enforcing Patent Rights

After a patent is granted, it's the patent holderu2019s responsibility to enforce their rights. This can entail legal actions to shield against infringement and tackle challenges to the patent's validity or interpretation under the relevant law. A proficient patent attorney can be invaluable during these processes.

Do You Need a Patent Attorney?

Patent attorneys are critical in the patent application process. They help inventors in getting ready and submitting their patent applications, replying to office actions, and handling continuous maintenance and renewal obligations. Their extensive experience in patent law and the technicalities of different sectors makes them vital in securing robust patent protection that can greatly increase the value of your work or business.


What is patent protection?

Patent protection is a set of exclusive rights given by a government to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period, in exchange for publicly disclosing the invention.

What is the difference between design and utility patents?

Design patents defend the unique appearance or design of a manufactured item, while utility patents protect functional features of new & useful processes, machines, compositions of matter, articles of manufacture, and any improvements.

How long does patent protection last?

Utility patents usually last 20 years from the filing date, whereas design patents protect for 15 years from the grant date.

What is a prior art search?

A prior art search is conducted to find any existing patents, patent applications, or other public information that may be similar to the invention. It evaluates the inventionu2019s novelty and non-obviousness and informs the patentability analysis.

How can one avoid infringing on existing patents?

To dodge infringement, carry out thorough patent searches before developing a new product or process. If non-expired patents are similar to the invention, execute a precise infringement analysis. Where potential infringement is found, make changes to the invention so it is not  within the existing patentu2019s domain.

What is the role of a patent attorney?

Patent attorneys aid inventors in preparing and filing their patent applications, responding to office actions, and taking care of ongoing maintenance and renewal requirements. They also assist in enforcing patent rights and addressing challenges to the patent's validity or interpretation under applicable law.

Neither design patents nor utility patents should be taken lightly, and either can provide critical protection for different aspects of an invention.

How to Find the Correct Patent Attorney 

Finding the right patent attorney for you requires research. If you are in need of a patent attorney, contact Gearhart Law at 908-273-0700 today for your free consultation. 

The content herein is meant to be educational only and not to substitute for legal advice.  If you have a legal question please consult an attorney.

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