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How long do patents last? Do they ever expire?

when do patents expire

Intellectual Property Law Attorney

Mason Boswell

Patent Application Attorney

Sadiq Aziz Ansari

Intellectual Property Law Attorney

Christopher Paradies

First, it is important to know what kind of invention is being patented: an ornamental design or a process, functional machine, or composition of matter.

A patent on an ornamental design expires 14 years from the date of issue (not filing) in the United States. The ornamental design is not a functional, utility patent.

Generally, when a person talks about the patenting of an "idea," the invention relates to functional features or processes of an invention. These are protected by "utility patents" and have a term of 20 years from the date of filing in the United States.

Your "improvement" of a base design might be either an ornamental design or a functional improvement

over the "prior art" base patent. In order to be patentable over the prior art, your improvement must be new, useful and nonobvious. Nonobviousness is an area of patent law that is beyond the scope of your question.

If you have a patentable improvement, you can file an application. Filing of a patent on an improvement does not infringe a base patent. Only when you or your licensee practices the improvement will it possibly infringe the claims of the base patent. The base patent will expire, and it is important to determine the expiration date. Assuming there are no other intervening patents, then you or your licensee may practice the improvement after expiration of the base patent, without fear of infringing the claims of the expired patent.

Utility patents can expire due to nonpayment of maintenance fees. This should always be checked.

Category: Forex

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