How long is my patent valid?

Learn how long a patent provides protection. Also, discover how you could lose that protection early and how to avoid having that happen.

If a person creates a unique product in Texas, he or she wants to be sure others cannot steal the creation and use it as their own. For a design, plant discovery or cultivation and product creation, a person can secure a patent, which will offer protection against others being able to take the invention or discovery and present it as their own. This protection does have a limit to it and does not last forever. The main idea is to give the original inventor a chance to make money from the invention and get the most from it before others can capitalize on it.

The validity limits of a patent

According to the International Trade Administration, how long a patent is valid depends on the type of patent filed. The most common patent filed is a utility patent. This covers many inventions and is not as limiting as a design or plant patent. A utility patent is valid for 20 years after the application is filed.

However, once a person secures the utility patent, he or she is responsible for paying maintenance fees. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, if a person fails to pay patent maintenance fees, then the patent protection ends and all rights are forfeited.

Maintenance fees

Maintenance fees are paid around the three, seven and 11-year marks after the patent is secured. The patent holder is given a year in which to pay the fees before they are considered unpaid and patent protection is suspended. Fees cannot be paid early or late. They must be paid in the window of time given.

There may be an additional surcharge added to the fees depending on when they are paid. Fees paid at three to 3.5 years, seven to 7.5 years and 11 to 11.5 years do not have the surcharge. Fees paid from 3.5 to four years, 7.5 to eight years or 11.5 to 12 years will carry a surcharge. A surcharge is added because this is considered a grace period time, which allows for extra time after the actual due date. The full payment due must be paid or fees are not considered paid. If a person has missed the deadline and the patent is suspended, it can be reinstated by paying fees and submitting a petition.

Patents can be confusing and the process to secure one requires great attention to detail. Ensuring patent protection is maintained can also be tricky. Furthermore, if another person violates patent protection, it can be tough to hold them accountable. This is why you should consider hiring an attorney familiar with intellectual property law, such as Taylor Dunham L.L.P.