If you have invented something, you can apply for a patent with the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) to protect your rights.
What are an inventor’s rights after submitting a patent application?
After you submit your application to the USTPO, the invention will be considered “patent pending”. After filing, your application will reviewed by an examiner from the patent office.
You cannot file a lawsuit against an infringer at this stage, but the patent-pending status helps discourage others from copying or using your invention. It is only after the patent is approved and issued that you can sue a party that you believe has infringed your patent.
The USTPO may take two years or so to approve or reject your application but you can accelerate the application process by requesting fast-track examinations of pending applications. Inventors who are more than 65 years old or have health issues may also have their applications processed more quickly.
What rights does an inventor gain after their patent is approved?
The owner of the patent gets complete control of their invention after their US patent application has been approved. This means that they have the right to file a lawsuit against anyone who uses, makes or sells their creation in the US without the inventor’s permission (i.e., by a license).
Typically, the rights of a patent are valid for 20 years from the date of approval. After this period, any party can use, make or sell the invention without any restrictions or without requiring authorization from the owner. However, even after expiry the inventor can still file patent infringement lawsuits for claims that occurred when the patent was still active.