Monday, March 27, 2006

Patent Rights in under a month [United States]

IP Law & Business reports an interesting way to quickly stop someone from using your idea.
Since patents generally take years to issue, the idea of a patent "emergency" seems counterintuitive. The referenced article shows that time is often critical for new inventions. One example is a new cereal that's high in protein and low in carbohydrates. A manufacturer has two options when faced with a ground-breaking new product. He can file an application and wait until the patent issues in a few years before selling the product. Alternatively, he can file an application and start selling the product, allowing others to copy the invention long before they are aware of a patent application. Since patents aren't published for 18 months in the USPTO, the infringer will not even be aware of infringement for over a year. An early publication is available, but it still takes 4 to 6 months. The infringer's lack of knowledge for this time means reduced infringement recovery for the patent owner. These months can be very critical in business.
So, what can a company do?
It can file a patent application in Switzerland. This can result in the patent being published within a month. Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), patent applications published through the international receiving office benefit from U.S. publication laws.
Of course, filing in a foreign office may require some knowledge of different practices, but in patent "emergencies" it may be worthwhile.

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