Although SarahSays is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of New York, she is *not* a patent attorney. However, she does understand patent law a bit better than most of us. This article examines U.S. patent law and provides some fun examples from the entrepreneurial and creative field of U.S. patents.
The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power to enact laws relating to patents, in Article I, section 8, which reads: “Congress shall have power… to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” As I mentioned in a previous article, a U.S. patent gives an inventor the right to exclude all others from making, using, importing, selling or offering to sell the invention for up to 20 years without the inventor’s permission.
That means that for a limited time the owner of a patent is entitled to make and sell the invention, free from competition. The owner of the patent can also license the patent, so that someone else can make the invention or the owner can go to court and ask a judge to stop another person from making or selling the invention that is defined by the claims in the patent. In effect, a patent can be a powerful legal tool which allows the patent owner the sole right to a competitive edge in the market for the term of the patent.
U.S. patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained. In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.
However, there are many patents that may not have such historical significance (thanks patentoftheweek.com).
And don’t you just hate it when you have to blow out those pesky candles on your birthday cake? Good thing in 1964 Paul Bosak patented his birthday cake candle extinguisher! And, of course, the next time my computer is on the fritz, I’ll be sure to thank the inventor of my computer repair kit.
Sure, I’m smiling as I read over some of these patents, but remember, each patent represents a lot of time and effort (not to mention money) put into the invention. And it’s likely that the inventor will police their patent for the term of the patent.
What do you think about patent law? Please share any interesting patents in the comments below!