Intellectual Property Glossary
This glossary defines some commonly used terms related to intellectual property and patents.
A person who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice. This includes patent attorneys, patent lawyers and patent agents.
The date when a complete application was received by the the patent office.
The entity that has the property right to the patent.
The section of a patent specification that defines the scope of protection granted by the patent.
A form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly or to display the copyrighted work publicly.
A patent granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
The date a patent application was filed in one or more patent offices. The filing date is a cutoff date after which any public disclosures will not form prior art (but the priority date must also be considered). In most jurisdictions (notably, not the US) the right to a patent for an invention lies with the first person to file an application for protection of that invention.
Property that results from original creative thought, including property registered through patents, copyrights and trademarks.
The person, or persons in US patent law, who contribute to the claims of a patentable invention.
IPC (International Patent Classification)
Created by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the IPC is a system for categorizing and organizing patents based on the invention's subject. It is a hierarchical classification system and is used by more than 100 countries. There are eight high-level classes listed below. Each of these classes has many sub-classifications. And those sub-classifications have sub-classifications. (It’s kind of like a Dewey Decimal system for patents.)
A: Human Necessities
B: Performing Operations, Transporting
C: Chemistry, Metallurgy
D: Textiles, Paper
E: Fixed Constructions
F: Mechanical Engineering, Lighting, Heating, Weapons
The date the United States Patent and Trademark Office (or other office) officially issued a patent. It establishes the date upon which infringement may be charged and after which continuing applications cannot be filed.
NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
A legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to by third parties.
Non practicing entity
An organization that does not manufacture or use a patent it owns, while still enforcing their rights through licensing or litigation. For related information, see “Patent Trolls.
An exclusive right granted to someone who invents any new, useful and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, and claims that right in a formal patent application. Generally in the United States, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed. There are three types of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office: Utility, Design, and Plant. (See the entry for each patent type for more information.)
A request pending at a patent office for the grant of a patent for an invention described and claimed in the request. The term is also used to refer to the process of applying for a patent, or to the patent specification itself.
The set of various laws relating to patents. The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power to enact laws relating to patents. Article I, section 8 reads "Congress shall have power ... to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The patent law specifies the rules for granting patents and establishes the United States Patent and Trademark Office to administer patents.
A pejorative term used for a person or company that enforces its patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered (by the party using the term) unduly aggressive or opportunistic, often with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention. Some have suggested that the term “Non practicing entity (NPE)” be used rather than patent troll. However, NPEs could include any organization that does not manufacture or use its patent, while still enforcing their rights through licensing or litigation. Not all NPEs would be considered patent trolls.
A patent granted to someone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
All information that has been disclosed to the public in any form about an invention before a given date. If an invention has been described in prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid. Prior art includes things like any patents related to the invention, any published articles about the invention, and any public demonstrations of the invention.
A patent application may claim priority from another previously filed application in order to take advantage of the filing date of information disclosed in that earlier application. Claiming priority is desirable because the earlier effective filing date reduces the number of prior art disclosures, increasing the likelihood of obtaining a patent.
In the US, patent applications are usually published 18 months after the earliest priority date of the application, even if the patent has not been granted or denied. Prior to that, the application is confidential to the patent office. After publication, certain parts of the application may remain confidential, but it is common for all communications between an Applicant (or his agent) and the patent office to be publicly available. The publication date at which it forms full prior art for other patent applications worldwide.
A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
A word, name, symbol or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others.
A patent that may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
US Patent Classification System
The official patent classification system used by the US Patent and Trademark office. There are over 400 classes in the US Patent Classification System, each having a title descriptive of its subject matter and each being identified by a class number. Each class is subdivided into a number of subclasses. Each subclass bears a descriptive title and is identified by a subclass number. The subclass number may be an integral number or may contain a decimal portion and/or alpha characters. A complete identification of a subclass requires both the class and subclass number and any alpha or decimal designations; e.g., 417/161.1A identifies Class 417, Subclass 161.1A.
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
An agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
The WIPO is one of the United Nations’ specialized agencies. Founded in 1967, WIPO was created "to encourage creative activity” and “to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world," according to the convention establishing the organization.
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