Should a New Company File Multiple Patents or One Big Patent?

A client recently asked: I have a few inventions and I’m wondering if I can save money by combining them into a single provisional patent application?

Your Patent Portfolio should always be developed with your business goals in mind. I passed the question back to the client and asked, what do you intend to do with these three innovations? If licensing is a potential goal, then combining all into one filing should be avoided.

In general, if you can afford to – file multiple applications. There are far more advantages that, depending on your financial situation, may outweigh the cost savings of filing a single provisional. The list of the advantages are referenced in Part 2/3 of my three part article about multiple patent applications.

If you are a cash-strapped start-up, having a master single filing serves a considerable purpose. A single ‘master’ provisional may also be split up into multiple non-provisional filings down the road (and you would be required to do so by the USPTO). There is, however, a distinct risk in combining filings: the subject matter of all three inventions enters the public domain at the same time. First – consider that provisional applications do not become publicly available until you convert the filing to a non-provisional filing. If you never convert to a non-provisional and let the provisional expire (12 months after filing), it will always be kept in confidence by the USPTO. This leads us to the risk: If you combined three inventions in a single provisional filing, and only choose to pursue one or two of those three in a non-provisional conversion, the third invention will still enter the public domain without any claim to protection (since it was mixed in with the other inventions in the single provisional filing). Thus, you’ll be out of luck if you decide to keep the subject matter of any one of the three inventions a ‘trade secret’ at any point in time after the ‘master’ provisional filing.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

Why Is a Provisional Patent Important for Your Invention?

A provisional patent application is a 12-month place-holder for a utility patent. The USPTO allows you to label your invention as Patent-Pending during this 12 month period. If a utility patent is not filed within the 12-month period, your spot in line is lost! Once the utility patent is filed, your utility patent filing claims the patent priority date as the provisional filing date. The patent priority date is the date from which you have a legal claim as the first inventor to have invented the subject matter of your patent application. As such, the patent priority date is an important factor for the examination process through which the utility patent undergoes.

The provisional patent application never gets examined for patentability, it only serves as a place holder for examination – however, the patent examiner will carefully scrutinize the content of the provisional patent application during the non-provisional patent application process. So it’s important to have your provisional patent application compliant with all applicable laws in order for it to preserve the patent-priority claim – otherwise, the Examiner can withdraw the patent priority claim and inventors are put in a bad spot, thinking they were patent-pending during the provisional patent process when in fact their patent pending status gets withdrawn upon the examination of the non-provisional utility patent application!

So, a provisional saves your spot in line for a utility patent. It is especially important in our first-to-file patent system. It is especially important as you market and as you share your invention/idea with engineers, developers, or those with deeper pockets than you! It always preserves your claim to the invention as those engineers/developers further improve on the invention.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola. 

yuri

 

How Do I Add Details to My Invention After I Filed for a Patent?

I’ve added additional details to my invention/idea but I’ve already filed for patent. Can I modify my patent application after I’ve already filed it?

A very common question indeed. The break down is quite easy to understand when following this logic:

 

ADDING NEW SUBJECT MATTER

  1. Any Patent-Pending Application, whether it is Provisional or Non-Provisional, cannot be modified to include additional details (referred to as “New Subject Matter”) after its filing date.
  2. To add New Subject Matter to any pending application (referred to as the “priority application”), an additional patent application for the New Subject Matter must be filed before the priority application is granted or expires.  
  3. The additional patent application is known as a CIP Application.

CIP EXAMINATION

  1. The CIP Application, in its documentation, establishes a priority claim to the previously pending patent application to which the new subject matter relates.
  2. The CIP Application receives a separate patent examination from the priority application.
  3. During Examination, New Subject Matter receives a patent priority date even with the date of CIP filing while the Subject Matter Included in the Priority Application retains its earlier patent priority date.

CIP TIMING

  1. Therefore, the timing of the CIP filing is important.  It should occur as soon as the new subject matter is conceived and the value of the subject matter is confirmed for patent filing.
  2. The CIP Application can be filed as either provisional (informally) or non-provisional application. However, filing a CIP as a provisional is only recommended if its priority application is also a provisional AND the applicant is still not prepared to convert the provisional patent application to a non-provisional patent application.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

What Does International Patent Protection Mean?

A question I get asked rather often – what does International Patent Protection mean? Then, after I recommend the filing of an international patent application (known as a PCT application, but will get to that later), my clients frequently ask: “wait, I have to file for an international patent application and it’s not even a patent recognized around the world?” Yep, that’s right.

There is no single “Patent” that is recognized around the world.  Rather, 148 countries (listed here: http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/pct/en/list_states.pdf) have entered into a Patent Cooperation Treaty (known as the PCT).  Under the PCT, each country must recognize a single international patent application (known the PCT application) and its patent priority date.

A PCT application may be filed up to 12 months after a national application has been filed in any one of the 148 countries that are members to the PCT.  This means within 12 months of filing either a US provisional patent application or non-provisional utility patent application, you may decide to step up and take your patent protection to the international level.

Prior to the PCT, if you were interested in international protection, you would have to file a patent application in each country all within 12 months of your national patent filing date under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (established back in 1883)!  This would be rather difficult and expensive experience.

With the PCT, a patent applicant need only file a single PCT application within that same 12 month period.  This single application is examined by a recognized international authority which issues a ‘patentability opinion’.  This patentability opinion, however, does not serve as a granted patent or a patent right. The Applicant has the opportunity to persuade the international authority of the patentability opinion if the opinion is not favorable.

In order to convert the patentability opinion to an actual patent, the PCT applicant may take the opinion and present it to any of the patent offices of the 148 countries that recognize the PCT applicant.  This must be done within 30 months of the applicant’s patent priority date (the date of the earliest national filing, if there was one).

If the patentability opinion issued by the international authority is favorable, the national patent office frequently adopts the opinion (subject to some local, national laws and exceptions) and grants a patent within its jurisdiction.  Even if the patentability opinion issued by the international authority wasn’t favorable, the applicant may still submit it to the national patent office and attempt to persuade the national patent examiner of the application’s patentability on the national level.

If you’ve understood my explanation correctly – you’ll see that there is no such thing as an international patent.  Rather, there is an internationally recognized patent examination process used to streamline the prosecution of patent rights when the patent applicant is seeking patent protection in many countries.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

Can I Infringe on a Patent Application That Is Currently Pending?

Clients often present to me some ‘patents’ they found through Google and ask me if they infringe the subject matter of the patent. This is a very loaded question and difficult to answer. But before even getting to the answer, it’s important to understand what the “patent” document cited by the client actually is.

First, it is important to distinguish a granted patent from a patent application publication. A granted patent entitles the patent owner 20 years of rights to exclude others from making, using, and selling the patent invention (as listed in the patent claims portion of the publication). A patent application publication (which is what you listed) only discloses to the public that the patent applicant has applied for a patent. It does not mean that a patent has been granted.

Both patent applications and granted patents are published. This means that a single patent filing will publish twice if it passes examination: first prior to commencement of the patent examination and again after examination has determined that the patent application is to be a granted patent. The first publication is mean to put the public on notice of a patent-pending examination, while the second publication is meant to put the public on notice of an actual granted patent.

Almost every non-provisional patent application that is filed to the USPTO gets published 18 months after its earliest filing date (whether the filing date of a related provisional or the filing date of the non-provisional patent filing itself). Sometimes, and for strategic reasons, the patent application may request that the patent application remain unpublished unless a patent is granted (in which case publication occurs post patent-grant).

Until a patent is granted, it is hard to determine what activity would constitute an infringement – simply because we do not know 1) whether the patent application will be issued as a patent by the patent examiner; and 2) what scope of patent protection will ultimately be granted to the patent application. This is an important distinction as the subject matter a patent applicant hopes to obtain patent (and as applied for in the published patent application) usually differs from the subject matter that is actually granted patent (due to patent examination requirements).

So, if you are trying to determine if you would be potentially infringing a patent application – It is important you monitor this application, and any other related application, to see what might issue to patent. Until then, you may act at your own discretion, knowing that there is a risk of patent infringement if the patent is to be granted. Until a patent is granted, infringement cannot occur.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

If I Withdrew My Patent Litigation Claim, Can I Re-File It Later on?

In general, there is no statute of limitations on a claim for patent infringement. However, the Patent Act specifies a time limit on monetary relief for patent infringement claims – damages are available only for infringement that occurs within the six years prior to the filing of the complaint. In general, a voluntary dismissal (unless it’s the second such dismissal associated with that particular claim) just serves to wipe the slate clean – it is as if the suit was never filed. In that sense, it does not serve to toll any limitation period.

In the event the suit has been dismissed twice, the claim is most likely barred by res judicata as the second voluntary dismissal of an action operates as a dismissal with prejudice.

One other issue to point out on the topic of time limitations associated with patent infringement claims, while there is no formal statute of limitations, a defendant can still assert the affirmative defense of laches to prevent a patent holder from pursuing a claim, asserting that the delay in bringing suit is unreasonable, and the defendant will suffer material prejudice due to the delay. There is no formal time for the application of laches – it just depends on the situation.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Megan K. Johnson is a business lawyer with over 7 years of experience. She helped champion securities crowdfunding at the local level and worked with the first company to successfully close an equity crowdfunding involving everyday investors. She is a partner at Founders Legal and can be reached at [email protected]

megan

Can I Break a Provisional Patent into Multiple Filings?

One provisional may serve the basis to as many non-provisionals as you would like. As long as you file at least one non-provisional within 12 months of the provisional, you can continue to file additional non-provisional claiming priority back to the same provisional SO LONG AS you do not add ‘new subject matter’ that was not covered/anticipated by the provisional.

This means that you can split the provisional into two or more non-provisional utility patent filings claiming priority back to the same provisional, so long as you don’t add anything new to any application. If you have additional subject matter you would like to include, the additional subject matter should be filed in a separate filing known as a Continuation-in-Part (CIP). For CIPs, the new subject matter gets a patent priority date even with the CIP’s filing date, while the originally presented subject matter keeps its original patent priority date.

Exception: if you come up with NEW ideas that aren’t covered by the provisional, but it’s still too soon to file the non-provisional (your product isn’t at its final stage), it would be advisable to file a second provisional. Then, a non-provisional utility patent can claim patent priority back to multiple provisional applications. In this way, you get the earliest possible priority date for each of your inventions.

Consider this article for further reading.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

When Should I Convert My Provisional Patent Application to a Non-Provisional Utility Patent?

I usually get asked the question: If I rush to convert my provisional to a non-provisional patent filing, does that reduce the risk of someone having a third party receiving a patent on the same subject matter?

Typically, there is NO rush in filing the non-provisional utility patent application once you’ve already secured a provisional patent application. Whether you file the non-provisional patent application the next day or 11 months and 20 days from the priority date established by the provisional, your patent priority rights will be the same.

In fact, the long your wait, the longer your effective patent coverage may actually be. Consider that a utility patent grants the inventory rights to exclude others from making, using, and selling the patent invention for a period of 20 years after the non-provisional patent filing date. So, if you have a priority date 1 year prior to the non-provisional filing date, that creates an effective patent priority of 21 years.

But there’s a catch to waiting – Warning: The longer you wait to convert your provisional patent application to a non-provisional, the greater the potential of someone obtaining a patent on the same subject matter as you – even if you have an early patent priority date established by your provisional patent filing.

Here is why: consider that a provisional patent application is never disclosed to the public. It’s kept confidential by the USPTO, and not even patent examiners assess provisional patent applications when they examine non-provisional utility patent applications.

This means that, while you are ‘patent pending’ with a patent priority date secured by a provisional patent filing, another applicant may apply for a non-provisional patent. In some instances, the patent examiner may begin examining their patent application while your provisional patent is still pending under confidentiality. This means that your provisional patent application may not be used as prior art against the subsequent patent filer. In turn, the subsequent patent filer may be granted a patent, even though you had an earlier filed provisional!

Correcting this is an up-hill battle and the subject of a different article.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

I Received a Provisional Patent Filing Receipt in the Mail – What Does It Mean?

A provisional patent application filing receipt indicates that the USPTO has granted you a patent priority date. The patent priority date is the same day as your patent filing date in the case of a provisional patent application filing. From this date forward, you have 12 months to file a non-provisional patent application claiming priority to the provisional. If you miss this deadline, your provisional patent priority date will expire and not be recoverable!

Three important things to note, however.

First – make sure that the filing receipt isn’t accompanied by any other notice. For instance, the filing receipt may accompany a notice to file missing application parts or a notice to file corrected application papers. These notices indicate that your application was filed with defects which, if not corrected within a specified date, will cause your application to be rejected and the patent priority date lost. In some instances, if you’ve already missed the deadline – an extension filing is possible. It is advised that you immediately consult a Patent Attorney if you received such notice.

Second – This document does not mean your patent application was deemed patentable. In fact, in the case of a provisional patent filing, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not examine the patent application on its merits (e.g., it doesn’t consider the subject matter of your patent app). Rather, it merely makes sure that all of the administrative formalities have been properly accounted for and, with such accounting, holds your patent priority date for twelve months.

Third – A Foreign Filing License (or a Foreign Patent Filing License) is granted. With each patent filing, the USPTO makes sure that the subject matter of the patent filing is not under export control. Typically, inventions that may be modified for use as a weapon, as well as several other inventions under export control, are tagged for confidentiality and prohibited from disclosure outside of the US. (See International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and EAR). This happens in a very small fraction of all patent filings. As such, the USPTO requires that all inventions conceived in the US are first filed with the USPTO before the inventor can file outside of the US. Once cleared, a foreign filing license (FFL) is issued to the inventor/applicant.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri

 

What Is Biometrics? | Yuri Eliezer Talks About the New Trend with NPR

Biometric technology is the use of fingerprints, iris scans, or voice recognition for user identification. Recently, there has been a growing trend in devices utilizing these features for the purpose of heightened security. Yuri Elizer, patent attorney and CEO of SmartUp, discusses the growing number of patents in this field and the normalization of this technology with NPR.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

yuri