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A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. Patents are granted for new, useful and non-obvious inventions for a period of 20 years from the filing date of a patent application, and provide the right to exclude others from exploiting the invention during that period. U.S. patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. The right conferred by the patent grant is "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
Patents are territorial, meaning that one must apply for patent protection in each country where protection is sought. In other words, U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.
The USPTO Inventors Assistance Center (IAC) provides patent information and services to the public. The IAC is staffed by former Supervisory Patent Examiners and experienced Primary Examiners who answer general questions concerning patent examining policy and procedure. The IAC can be reached by telephone at (800) 786-9199. To access the IAC website, please click here.