How long does it take to get a patent?

We outline how long it takes to get a patent and what you should expect throughout the patent application process.

When inventors attend a consultation with an attorney, it’s inevitable that they will ask, “How long does it take to get a patent?”

That’s a question that can be frustrating for even a seasoned patent attorney to answer. This is because there are so many variables at play.

It’s also important to remember that there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever receive a patent for your invention. It is a long, complex and potentially costly process. Ultimately, there may be no meaningful protection for your invention.

That’s why it’s critical for inventors and entrepreneurs to work with an intellectual property attorney right from the start. These professionals can advise you with regard to the potential patentability of your invention and perform a search to find out if something similar to your creation has already been patented. This can save you unimaginable amounts of time and money.

However, let’s say that your invention appears to be patentable, novel and unique. A patent search reveals that there’s nothing like it at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. How much time will it take to obtain a patent on that invention?

This depends on factors like the type of patent you are pursuing, whether or not you elect expedited processing, the art unit in which your application is reviewed and whether or not you can petition to make your application special. A closer look at these factors may help you to see how long it will take for you to get a patent.

Types of Patents

In the U.S., the three main categories of patents are utility, design and plant.

Utility Patents

Utility applications, which cover a machine, process or article of manufacture, are by far the most commonly sought.

Utility patent applications generally require the most time to process. The broader and more novel the subject matter of the application is, the longer it is likely to take to examine. If the improvement is close to known subject matter, then it is considered more limited in scope and likely will require less processing time.

Design Patents

Designs, which cover surface ornamentation or the appearance of an article, are the second most common type of patent application.

Design patent applications tend to be examined far more quickly because they are shorter and less complicated.

It is not unusual for a design patent to be issued within one to two years after filing. However, it may take anywhere from one to five years for a utility patent to be issued.

Plant Patents

The third category is plants, and these applications cover a specific genetic combination of an engineered plant species. A plant patent is granted by the United States government to an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.

Plant patents normally take close to two years for the patent office to grant or reject a plant patent application.

The Filling Process

A well-written patent application can be produced within a few weeks to a couple of months. The better written the application is, the more likely it is to be examined quickly and favorably. A competent patent attorney knows precisely what to disclose and how to disclose it to obtain the broadest and most meaningful protection possible.

Because the quality of the application is so critical, it is never a good idea for an inventor to write the patent application themselves. It is far better to trust this stage to a professional to save time and money.

Choosing Expedited Processing

Knowing that it can take as long as five years to move from application to issued patent, some inventors are opting for Track One Prioritized Examination procedures at the USPTO. Participation can move you toward final disposition of your application within just 12 months. It’s available for utility and plant applications, and you must pay an extra fee to request prioritized processing.

Art Units

Examiners at the USPTO are broken up into groups called “Art Units.” Art Units are categorized according to common types of technologies. Patent applications are assigned to examiners based on the technology involved in the invention. Some art units are busier than others. The more popular and complex the technology, the longer the processing times are likely to be.

A Petition to Make Special

If the inventor or applicant is over the age of 65 or is suffering from a life-threatening illness, then they may petition to make their application special. This provides them with expedited processing. No fee is required with these petitions, but documentation concerning the age or health of the applicant is mandatory.

Abandonment & Allowance

Abandoned means that the trademark application is no longer pending and cannot mature into registration. This will happen because you’ve given up on the pursuit or you lost track of the process.

In the application process the examining attorney will issue an office action letter to the applicant stating the status of the of the application. The applicant then has up to 6 months to respond if they want to continue through the process or the patent will be considered abandoned.

Closing

If you want to obtain patent protection for your invention, then it’s wise to work with a qualified intellectual property attorney. These professionals take much of the guesswork out of pursuing a patent, which saves you time and money.

What Is Patent Litigation?

When an individual inventor or a company is granted a patent, it means that they have the legal right to prevent others from benefitting from their hard work. Any competitor that is making or selling an infringing product may be sued by the patent holder.

Litigation is always a risky, expensive and time-consuming process. Nonetheless, it also is a critical component of protecting intellectual property rights. When two parties enter into a serious dispute, sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to settle their differences.

If you are a patent owner and you believe that your rights are being infringed by a competitor, then contact Williams IP Law to learn more about your legal rights and options.

What Is Patent Litigation?

This type of action is a lawsuit that is filed in civil, rather than criminal, court. Usually, these types of lawsuits are filed when someone who holds a patent believes that another person is using their invention without permission.

Keep in mind that litigation is not the first step in the process when infringement is suspected. It is common for a lawsuit to be filed only as a last resort after the alleged infringer absolutely refuses to acknowledge or address the concerns of the patent holder.

Most patent litigation matters only come to a lawsuit after months of back and forth between attorneys. Once a lawsuit is filed, it may be months, and most likely years, before the matter is resolved.

How Does Patent Litigation Work?

Neither party is likely to enter the patent litigation process lightly. Typically, a lawsuit only becomes necessary when both parties have dug in their proverbial heels, with both sides insisting that they are the rightful owner of the technology at issue.

Like other civil lawsuits, these matters begin with the filing of a Complaint by the plaintiff, who usually is the patent owner. Then, the defendant is required to file an Answer.

What follows is usually many months of research, depositions and discovery. It may be necessary to sift through thousands of documents, depose critical witnesses and locate experts who can help to shore up either side of the case.

Frequently, the claims in the lawsuit come down to whether or not the patent is valid. The patent owner naturally claims that their patent is valid while the attorney for the defendant must argue why the patent is invalid. This can be a complex determination that rests on detailed knowledge of technical and patent-related matters.

This is a complicated and time-consuming process. However, it’s also a critical component of any patent lawsuit. In fact, many of these lawsuits are settled at the discovery stage because some evidence or testimony comes to light that illustrates the validity of the claim of one party or the other. There may even be a mountain of evidence proving the claims of one party.

Even if such evidence never comes to light, this stage of the lawsuit can be a war of attrition. One party or the other may conclude that continuing the fight just isn’t worth their time and money. Occasionally, both parties reach this decision and come up with a settlement agreement that at least partially satisfies everyone.

Will Your Case End up in Court?

Like other civil litigation matters, most patent lawsuits never make it to their court date. If your lawsuit does go the distance, this means significantly increased expenses for both parties. However, if they are unable to reach any kind of accord before the trial begins, they are left with no other choice.

Do You Need Patent Litigation?

Whether you are an individual inventor or work for a company that owns an important patent, then it is crucial for you to protect your rights. Unfortunately, this sometimes means being faced with the decision to file a patent lawsuit.

Given that such litigation is costly, complicated and time-consuming, the representation that you choose matters. It’s essential that you seek legal counsel with the right kind of knowledge and experience to see you through the process from beginning to end.

At Williams IP Law, our legal professionals work with inventors every day. Not only do we help people and companies to obtain the intellectual property protection that they need but also we represent them when it’s time to enforce their rights.

With considerable patent litigation experience, Williams IP Law is the firm that you need when you’re concerned that your intellectual property rights have been violated.

What Does a Patent Attorney Do?

When most people think of attorneys, they picture them in courtroom appearances making dramatic speeches to a panel of jurors. The reality is that many attorneys rarely work in courtrooms, and there are even some lawyers who never appear in court at all.

The patent attorneys who prosecute patent applications are among these latter attorneys who essentially never have to make a court date. Instead, they practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some patent attorneys also practice in patent litigation, which means that they may bring lawsuits that are heard by a judge and possibly a jury.

Regardless of whether they focus on patent prosecution or litigation, patent attorneys practice in a small, specialized area of law. In fact, not everyone who is graduated from law school and passes a bar exam is qualified to be a patent attorney.

Instead, patent attorneys are required to have a scientific or technical background. This usually means that they have obtained an undergraduate degree in a scientific, engineering or other technical subject area. After that four-year education, they proceed to three years of law school, at the conclusion of which, they must pass the bar exam for the state in which they hope to practice. Then, they must pass a test that is administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that frequently is referred to as the “patent bar exam.”

Typically, before taking the patent bar exam, a new attorney obtains employment with an intellectual property law firm. The experienced practitioners at the firm guide and counsel the new attorney so that he or she gets familiar with the patent prosecution process. This also provides essential preparation for passing the patent bar exam.

Once the attorney has the credentials to practice before the USPTO, they are a full-fledged patent lawyer and able to help clients obtain the intellectual property protection that they need.

What Does a Patent Attorney Do?

When an individual or company invents a new product or process, then they may seek help from an intellectual property attorney who can help them to obtain a patent.

The process begins with a meeting between the client and the patent attorney. The client provides details about their invention, and the lawyer provides insight into the patenting process, what’s involved, how much it may cost and how long it is likely to take.

The client decides whether or not they want to proceed with either a search or an application. Attorneys perform a patent search to determine whether or not there are existing patents or patent applications on which the proposed invention disclosure might infringe. At the conclusion of the search, the attorney can provide a more educated estimate with regard to the potential patentability of the invention.

If the client indicates that they want to proceed with a patent application, then the intellectual property attorney makes an in-depth study of the technological area and gathers additional details regarding the invention from the inventors.

An intensive period of writing ensues as the patent attorney drafts the specification, claims and abstract that make up the application. The specification intricately describes the invention and all of its possible permutations while the claims point out the specific elements that the applicant wants to protect. The abstract is a summary of the specification.

The Filing of the Patent Application

The patent attorney’s firm handles submission of the completed patent application to the USPTO. Eventually, the application will be reviewed by another lawyer who works at the USPTO as an Examining Attorney. It’s the examiner’s job to decide on the patentability of the application. If the examiner believes that the invention isn’t patentable, then they will issue an Office action.

This is where the patent attorney steps in again, drafting amendments and a response to the Office action, arguing why the invention actually is distinct and patentable. Relying on their training, patent lawyers make legal arguments against the rejections to convince the examiner to issue a patent.

Patent Attorneys Fight Infringement

Intellectual property lawyers who litigate are adept at enforcing patent rights with all of the means at their disposal. This may include filing lawsuits when someone else infringes a patent holder’s rights. Not all of these cases actually make it to the courtroom. In fact, many of them are settled well before they are brought before a judge or jury. Still, the patent litigation attorney provides helpful, knowledgeable guidance with incredibly complicated court cases, ensuring that patent holders are able to protect their interests.

Do You Need a Patent Attorney?

Obtaining patent protection requires knowledge of an array of technical and legal factors. This is why it is generally recommended that inventors work with a patent attorney when it is time to protect their invention.

The experienced practitioners at the Williams IP Law are skilled when it comes to helping individuals and companies protect their intellectual property. If you believe that you need patent protection, then contact Jeff Williams to schedule an initial consultation.

What should you know about music patents?

Is it possible to get a music patent? Patents are one option when it comes to protecting the intellectual property that you create, and they may not be the best choice when you want to protect a song.

Singers and songwriters who are interested in protecting their creations are encouraged to contact an intellectual property attorney who can help them to formalize protection of their work.

Is Music Intellectual Property?

Whether it’s the melody, the lyrics or both, music is intellectual property. Does that mean that you can get a music patent?

Not necessarily. To understand why, it’s critical to know the differences between copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Copyrights vs. Patents vs. Trademarks

Musical compositions and performances and recordings of those compositions are protected by copyrights. Registration of these rights is a simple and inexpensive process, but it grants the holder strong protections. If someone else uses your music without paying you or giving you credit, then you have the right to demand that they stop. These rights extend to lawsuits.

Patents are meant to protect inventions. Items that are suitable for a copyright are original works of authorship, but if you want to get a music patent, then you would essentially have to invent something new.

For instance, if you invented a new musical instrument that was unlike anything that people had seen or heard before, it would be appropriate to seek a patent for it.

Trademarks are set aside for protecting things like brands, slogans and logos. If you were in a band, then you might consider obtaining trademark protection for the band’s name or a logo that you use.

Copyrighting Songs and Recordings

If you want to register your copyright to a song or a recording, the process is easy. Most of it is completed online at the website for the U.S. Copyright Office. If you want to make certain that your application proceeds as smoothly as possible, then it’s wise to work with an IP attorney who can prepare and submit the application.

To do so, your attorney will need some basic information about you as the author of the creation and the work itself. You’ll need to provide data like the name of the song or album, and your lawyer will fill out the online form.

Filing online is more efficient and less expensive, so your attorney likely will use this route unless circumstances dictate that a paper filing makes more sense. Either way, it probably will take several weeks, and perhaps even a few months, to receive a copyright registration.

Is a Copyright Worth It?

When you officially register your work, it creates a public record of your rights and enables you to sue if someone infringes those rights. Depending upon when the registration was obtained, you may be able to claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees in addition to actual damages and profits. Moreover, registration can be recorded with U.S. Customs so that officials can watch out for counterfeit products.

Facts You Should Know About Copyrights

  1. Your work doesn’t have to be published.

Whether you publish your work or not, it can still be federally registered, and therefore is entitled to the full protection of the law.

  1. Your creation is protected for your lifetime and beyond.

Most published works that were fixed in tangible form after January 1, 1978 may be eligible for a copyright that lasts for 70 years beyond the author’s lifetime.

If you work for a company writing songs, then the copyright’s length may be even longer. This means that your songs are considered “work for hire.” Such compositions are entitled to 95 years of protection from the date of publication or for 120 years from the year of creation of the song, whichever deadline expires first.

  1. Protection is automatic.

You don’t necessarily have to register a copyright. In the U.S., your work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form like writing it down on paper or making a recording of yourself singing it. However, registration gives you far more robust protection under the law.

  1. Sound recordings are not the same as compositions.

Imagine that you are a singer/songwriter. You’ve just written a song and recorded yourself singing and playing the guitar. This means that you may seek two different copyright registrations: one for the composition itself and a second one for your recording. If that song is used on an album or released as a single, then additional copyright protection may be available.

  1. Registration gives you rights.

The copyright holder has the power to rearrange and perform the work any way they wish. They can adapt it, reproduce it or distribute it however they like. It’s even possible to license others to do these things. The upshot is that a copyright registration keeps you in the driver’s seat.

Work with Williams IP Law

At the Williams IP Law, we practice in all areas of intellectual property. This includes patents, trademarks and copyrights. If you are curious about how to protect your rights, call Williams IP Law.

COVID-19 and Pharmaceutical Patent Law

With the COVID-19 pandemic being an issue that is impossible to ignore in recent months, it comes as little surprise that the race to develop a treatment or a vaccine for this virus is at the forefront of the minds of many innovators.

As individuals, companies, universities and governments across the globe strive to develop treatments and vaccines, several questions loom. If someone does develop a successful vaccine, should they be able to patent it? Or, should the formula be made publicly available around the world to allow even the planet’s poorest citizens to have immediate access to it?

While this debate remains at least partially theoretical in advance of the development of a successful treatment or a vaccine, this is an excellent time to examine pharmaceutical patent laws and their effect on the availability of medical treatments and vaccines.

What Is Pharmaceutical Patent Law?

Many people aren’t aware that new drugs frequently are patented by their creators. This means that the company that developed the drug has the right to prevent their competitors from making an identical product, and this means that the patent owner has reserved the right to earn profits from the formula to himself.

Eventually, all patents expire. At this time, which typically is after approximately 20 years, it becomes possible for other drug companies, including those that produce generic versions of medications, to make these drugs and perhaps offer them at a fraction of the price for which the patent owner was selling it.

Pharmaceutical patents are important to companies because it is risky and expensive for these companies to develop new drugs. Years of research, development and testing may be required, and the exclusive period of being able to claim the profits from sales of that drug help the company to recoup its expenses and turn a tidy profit. Moreover, the patent owner has the option of licensing their rights to other companies, which also can signal enhanced profits.

The downside pharmaceutical patents is that sometimes these drugs are incredibly expensive when they are under patent. Accordingly, people with limited financial means may not be able to afford access to critical medications.

If a treatment or vaccine could save lives, is it right to restrict the manufacture of this medicine to a single innovator or to charge a premium price for it?

Pharmaceutical Patent Law in a Pandemic

Over the years, large pharmaceutical firms have used a variety of more-or-less nefarious schemes in an attempt to extend their exclusive hold over patented drugs. With powerful government lobbying departments, they have sought to prohibit or minimize the manufacture of generic drugs.

Observers are concerned that if a major pharmaceutical company does develop a COVID-19 vaccine, that it will do everything it can to complicate access to it. The problem becomes more complex if more than one treatment or vaccine is developed. Then, there may be competing concerns that will make it even harder to dispense effective medicines to the world’s population.

This is why NGOs and certain pharmaceutical companies, along with biotech communities, are pledging to make public the results of their research and development into the treatment and prevention of the coronavirus. Accordingly, such drugs would be provided inexpensively or even at no cost to people around the world.

Similarly, the World Health Organization is lobbying to make research, treatments and vaccines publicly available, while some countries are proposing limited patent rights for treatments and vaccines that include mandatory licensing.

Vaccine Patent Law

Most of the vaccines that are recommended by medical professionals are far older than the typical 20-year term of a U.S. utility patent. This means that they are no longer subject to patent protection. Accordingly, they can be safely and effectively manufactured by a variety of companies without any of these companies running afoul of another’s patent rights.

However, if the currently hypothetical coronavirus vaccine is developed, should the inventor have the right to patent it? Some parties argue that the developer should have the exclusive right to profit from their achievement while others are convinced that the vaccine should be made publicly available to all.

Currently, various efforts are underway to make the vaccine available for the good of the world’s population. Time will tell if these efforts, and the effort to develop a vaccine, are successful.

If you are an inventor or entrepreneur with an innovative idea, then it makes sense to take essential steps to protect your work. Contact the Williams IP Law for an initial consultation to explore your options.

Back-to-School Inventions That Were Revolutionary

Back to School

As autumn draws near, thoughts turn to the upcoming school year. One of the most highly anticipated parts of going back to school is the supplies.

Here’s a look at the invention of some of the most common and best-loved school supplies.

Crayons

Is it possible that Pennsylvania cousins C. Harold Smith and Edwin Binney could have known how popular and timeless their 1903 invention would become?

Of course, this pair of inventors didn’t invent the crayon. That honor belongs to European inventors who created a crayon using a mixture of oil and charcoal. Eventually, pigmented hues would take the place of charcoal, giving artists a rainbow of colors.

The Crayola Crayons that are the staple of every child’s desk were first offered for sale in 1903. Alice Binney, the wife of one of the crayon’s innovators, coined the name “Crayola” from the French word for a stick of chalk “craie” and by shortening the oily word “oleaginous.”

Made from colored pigments and paraffin wax, Crayola Crayons started out with eight colors. Today, there are hundreds of options.

Eraser

The eraser is an indispensable tool in any classroom, but this technology wasn’t as obvious in earlier centuries as it is today. Throughout the decades, people tried a variety of substances to get rid of mistakes written in ink or lead.

A tablet of wax, some rough sandstone or even a piece of soft bread might have been able to obliterate written mistakes in those days. Then, English engineer Edward Nairne tried to use a piece of natural rubber instead of a morsel of bread. The year was 1770, and Nairne began selling rubbers. However, these rubbers had drawbacks like a peculiar odor and a tendency to crumble during use.

Charles Goodyear refined the process of making rubber erasers in 1839 when he developed a process for vulcanization of rubber. This made erasers more durable, and they became a household staple. Inventor Hymen Lipman later patented his idea for attaching an eraser to the tip of a pencil, though the patent later was invalidated.

Nonetheless, the eraser, whether attached to a pencil or not, remains an indispensable tool in the classroom.

Pencil Sharpener

Long gone are the days of needing a knife or sandpaper to sharpen a pencil. Today, students use a mechanical or electric pencil sharpener. It’s much faster and more convenient, but how did we arrive at this marvelous innovation?

It was Bernard Lassimonne, a French mathematician, who received the first patent for a pencil sharpener. The year was 1828, and the device relied on a block of wood inset with metal files set at 90 degrees to each other. Cumbersome to use, the device never caught on.

However, another Frenchman, Thierry des Estivaux, was waiting in the wings with an improvement. This device consisted of a single blade in a cone-shaped housing. Today, this is called a prism sharpener, and it’s still in use.

One of the most important pencil sharpener improvements was created in the U.S. by John Lee Love, an African-American inventor. While working in Fall River, Massachusetts as a carpenter, Love invented the Love Sharpener, the first portable pencil sharpener. Love was able to patent his invention in 1897.

Lunch Box

Choosing the right lunch box is something of a declaration of the carrier’s personality. However, lunch boxes had a much more utilitarian beginning in the 19th century. Those lunch boxes were plain and functional, most often carried by working men, and usually were constructed of metal to ensure durability even in places like mines and quarries.

It wasn’t until 1902 that lunch boxes designed for kids were introduced. These were often made to resemble small picnic baskets, but it wasn’t long before entrepreneurs saw an opportunity.

One of the earliest of these was Walt Disney. His hugely popular animated character, Mickey Mouse, was the first character to be featured on a lunch box. Soon, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger, and later the Beatles, the Partridge Family and the Harlem Globetrotters, were showing up on lunch boxes everywhere.

Today, metal lunch boxes are rare as most are now manufactured from molded plastic.

White-Out

Sometimes also called liquid paper, typist Bette Nesmith Graham invented White-Out in 1956. Initially, the substance consisted of tempera paint that was run through Graham’s kitchen blender. She began distributing bottles of her “Mistake Out” to her colleagues.

Two years later, Graham founded the Mistake Out Company, still working in her kitchen and garage. The venture finally became a full-time one, and Graham sold the company to the Gillette Corporation in 1979.

Whether your invention belongs in the classroom, the factory or the operating room, it’s wise to protect it with a patent. Speak with the IP professionals at Williams IP Law to learn more about how to protect your innovation.

What You Need To Know About Textile Patents

The textile industry has always been an innovative one. It’s also one of the oldest industries, dating back nearly to the dawn of civilization.

Despite the long history of textiles, there are still plenty of innovations to be made. These may include a trendy new fabric design that’s the talk of the runways in Milan or a woven fabric that could function as an implantable medical device. Regardless, some form of intellectual property, or IP, protection may be necessary.

A closer look at the history of textiles and its relationship to intellectual property will make this clear.

History of Textiles

From the Latin word “texere,” meaning “to weave,” textiles typically are flexible materials composed of networks of either artificial or natural fibers, which usually are called yarn. The yarn is then pressed, knotted, crocheted, knitted or woven into a textile.

Some of the earliest examples of textile manufacture date back to the sixth and seventh centuries BC in Europe. India was spinning cotton as early as 3,000 BC and was manufacturing silk by 400 AD. Egyptians began spinning and weaving linen around 3,400 BC while the Chinese started spinning silk around 2,600 BC.

Raw wool was the most commonly used textile material for centuries. Some societies also used flax or cotton. Textile operations were small, perhaps just a single cottage in a village where manufactured goods were painstakingly produced by hand.

In the latter half of the 18th century, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution permanently changed the textile manufacturing landscape. Hand production became less prominent during the following decades, and machines powered by steam or water dominated factories across Europe and America.

Innovations like the spinning jenny and the flying shuttle made it easier than ever before to produce mass quantities of textiles. Of course, all of these machines and their component parts needed IP protection, and so did some of the textiles that they were used to manufacture.

Textiles & Intellectual Property

Improvements in the manufacture of textiles go hand-in-hand with IP protection. An inventor who makes a significant improvement on a sewing machine or who builds an entirely new weaving machine certainly will want to seek patent protection for it.

However, other forms of IP protection also may be appropriate. It is possible to protect a new fabric or other textile with a design patent, which is directed to a “new, original, and ornamental design.” Obtaining design patent protection usually is less complicated than obtaining a utility patent, yet it still provides valuable coverage. Any non-functional aspect of the design may be protected, and this protection extends for a period of 14 years.

Alternatively, it may be appropriate to seek a trademark registration for a textile. In the U.S., trademarks function as source identifiers. It is possible for a fabric design as well as a footwear or clothing design to be protected as a trademark. Obtaining a trademark registration for a textile can be tricky as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not consider such designs “inherently distinctive.” Instead, the applicant must demonstrate a secondary meaning or some level of acquired distinctiveness before a registration is issued. A trademark registration can be maintained in perpetuity as long as the registered mark continues to be used in U.S. commerce.

Copyright Protection for Textiles

The other alternative is to seek copyright protection on a new and innovative textile. In the U.S., a copyright protects original works that are fixed in some tangible form. “Useful” articles that perform a basic function are not eligible for copyright protection. Accordingly, a design for a new pair of shoes or an overcoat would not be able to be protected by copyright.

Nonetheless, any original, non-functional design may be able to become a registered copyright. Although registration is not required in order to hold a copyright, it is recommended as it provides the owner with additional opportunities before the law to pursue anyone who infringes the registered copyright.

Contact the Williams IP Law

If you have invented a new and innovative textile or have made an improvement to a machine that manufactures textiles, then it’s wise to consider whether or not formal IP protection may be needed. When you hold a patent, registered trademark or registered copyright, then you may have the right to prevent others from producing a similar textile or copying your manufacturing improvement.

Contact Jeff Williams today to schedule a consultation to discuss this and other IP-related matters.

Oil & Gas Patenting Trends and Innovation

The oil and gas industry has always been an innovative one. Over the decades, drilling for natural resources has required ever-more-sophisticated technology to tap into reserves that were unknown or impossible to exploit for earlier generations.

Consequently, the oil and gas industry has always pursued a multitude of patents. While that remains true, the protected technology has certainly evolved. Keeping up with these trends makes it possible for entrepreneurs and organizations to stay on top of the industry and remain competitive.

Patent Filing Trends

Today, most oil and gas industry patents are focused in areas such as:

  • Earth drilling;
  • Geophysics;
  • Metalworking technologies; and
  • Climate change–mitigation technologies

Earth drilling is by far the most frequently used technology in the field. It comes as no surprise then that most industry patents cover some aspect of this technology.

In an interesting trend, as the world emerged from the Great Recession that began in 2008, patent filings increased overall. However, patent applications in the oil and gas industry did not experience quite the same robust growth rate. Moreover, the focus of these patent applications had definitely switched to the areas listed above, with hydraulic fracturing receiving an even greater emphasis.

Patent Innovation for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, which commonly is referred to as fracking, involves cutting-edge technology in this field. A fracking fluid is pumped into an oil well under extreme pressures. The introduction of the fluid causes underground rock formations to fracture. These fractures stimulate the production of oil and gas.

Fracking techniques may be combined with horitzontal wells to reach previously unobtainable reserves.

Since 2006, oil and gas companies have filed approximately 1,000 patent applications related to fracking technology. The number of filings in this area has steadily increased each year, with the covered technology relating to both the tools and methods that are needed to exploit oil reserves.

Many players in the industry are seeking coverage for other technologies that are related to fracking. These may include systems and tools for monitoring fractures and proppants, finding the best positioning for horizontal drilling operations, controlling the heat resistance of fracking fluids and treating the waste products that are left over from the use of fracking fluid.

Trend in Patent Infringement Cases

As companies in the oil and gas industry have increased the number of patent applications they are filing, the opportunities for infringement have multiplied. Recall that the innovations that are disclosed in a patent application are afforded some level of protection as soon as the application is filed. The U.S. is now a first-to-file country, which means that the first party to file an application for a given technology is regarded as the first to have come up with the idea.

Accordingly, it is possible for patent applicants to begin informing others of their rights whenever they suspect that a competitor is somehow using their proprietary technology. The publication of the patent application, which frequently occurs approximately 18 months after filing, can serve as notice to competitors that they may be infringing.

Key Countries For Oil And Gas Innovation

Research suggests that most oil and gas industry related patents are being filed in the United States, China and Japan. Consequently, it is sensible for inventors or their employers to file patent applications at least in the U.S. to protect their ideas. It also may be worthwhile to consider filing national-phase applications in China, Japan and elsewhere that the technology may be used or infringed upon.

Contact Williams IP Law

The legal professionals at the Williams IP Law have considerable experience in the oil and gas industry. In the course of their practice, they have filed U.S. as well as PCT and national-phase patent applications. Partnerships with other intellectual property attorneys around the world make this a cost-effective and convenient process.

If you have an innovation that you would like to protect with a patent or are concerned that a competitor is infringing your rights in the oil and gas industry then it’s time to schedule a consultation with Jeffrey Williams.