The U.S. government officially established the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 1802 with the first “Superintendent of Patents” appointed by congress. The position was later revised to the “Commissioner of Patents” when the USPTO and patent laws were restructured in 1836. In 1849, the Patent Office was removed from under the Department of State and placed under the Department of Interior. The office was transferred to the Department of Commerce in 1925, where it remains to this day.
The USPTO oversees the patent laws as they relate to the awarding of patents for new and useful inventions. The office pours over new patent invention submissions to determine which meet the criteria set by the office for a new and useful invention. The USPTO cannot enforce patent laws as it has no jurisdiction over patent infringement or other patents laws.
The inventions submitted for patent protection are divided up among different examining technology centers (TC) that have been granted jurisdiction over a certain fields of technology. Each TC employs a group of directors, examiners, and their support staff who review all patent invention applications to determine if they are eligible for a patent. If a patent invention idea is rejected, the applicant can appeal the decision before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences for review by the Director of the USPTO. The board also reviews applications from different inventors for similar patent invention requests to determine the original inventor. The office receives over 350,000 applications for patents each year.
To be able to qualify for a patent and patent your invention, it must meet certain criteria established by the USPTO. It must be a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. An invention cannot be patented in the U.S. if the invention was already known or used by others, previously patented, or if it was depicted or described in a publication. In addition, an invention cannot be patented if the invention was in use by the public or on sale to the public for more than one year before the patent application was received by the USPTO. An inventor who depicts or describes his /her invention in a publication, uses it publicly or markets the invention has one year to file for a patent, after that the inventor looses the right to patent the invention.
A patent is the property right of the inventor for his/her invention. The term for a new patent is usually 20 years from the date of the earliest application for patent. Patent invention rights are only effective within the United States and in U.S. territories. A patent awards the patent holder the right to exclude others from manufacturing, using, marketing, or selling the patented invention in the United States or from importing the invention into the U.S. A patent does not award the right to manufacture, use, market, sell, or import, the patented invention.