The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) responsible for granting patents and patent enforcement. Patents are issued by the USPTO to register and protect inventions and their inventors from unscrupulous copycat inventors or the theft of the original inventor’s idea or product. In short, a patent is the official government recognition of a person’s invention and of the person or entity as the original inventor. The agency also serves to aid other government entities in matters of patent enforcement and intellectual property rights as they relate to domestic and global intellectual property laws.
Patents are issued under the official seal of the USPTO. The length of a patent is usually 20 years from the earliest recorded date of the patent application to the USPTO. The patent will include a grant to the patentee, a copy of the invention’s specifications, and a drawing of the invention. A copy of these records is archived at the USPTO. The grant awards the patentee the right to exclude others from manufacturing, using, and marketing, selling or importing the patented invention into the United States or any U.S. territory. A patent does not consent the right to manufacture, use, market, sell, or import the invention to the patentee. It merely grants the exclusive nature of the right or an exclusivity right to the patentee. In other words, the patent only grants the right to exclude others from manufacturing, using, marketing, selling, or importing the patented invention.
A person who legally produces and sells a patented item, whether their own invention or under license from the inventor or patent holder, must display the word, “Patent”, on the item along with the patent number. The patentee ‘s failure to mark a product appropriately with the corresponding patent product number will result in the loss of revenue for the patentee, as well as, the ability to recover lost revenue as a result of patent infringement or the ability to apply patent enforcement laws. Patent enforcement can only be applied if the violator is aware that he or she is committing patent infringement and/or continues to do so after they have been notified of such an infringement. Patent enforcement can also be applied to the owner of a product that bears a false patent number.
The terms “Patent Pending” or “Patent Applied For” indicate that a patent has been applied for with the USPTO. As far as patent enforcement, these phrases have no legal consequence, because actual patent protection does not begin until the actual patent is officially granted. However, false use of either of these phrases or similar statements is illegal under patent laws.