Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 17, 2019

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In the United States, a patent must be issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

What is the history of patents?
Patents are a government protection of inventions; they originated in England where inventors and invention companies could request a “letters patent” from the king that would punish any infringers who tried to copy the invention.

In the United States, the Patent and Copyright Clause was added to US law in 1787 by James Madison and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. The first US patent was granted to Samuel Hopkins in 1790 for his method of making potash. Initially the law required that an actual working model of the invention be submitted with the application. Today, only a description is required.

Where do I obtain a patent form?
Patent forms are available online through the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. This website also details the fees required for filing a patent as well as offering a database to search. The database allows inventors a means of verifying that their invention is novel.

What are the requirements for a patent?
In order to be patented, the invention must not already be patented. You cannot patent an invention that someone else has already patented. The typical term for this requirement is that the invention is “novel”.

In addition, you can only patent physical inventions and processes. For instance, a new type of paper or new form of light bulb can be patented. A theory about paper processing or electrical resistance in light bulbs cannot be patented. For more information on protecting theories, see our articles on copyright.

How do I obtain a patent?
Fill out the form with as much detail describing your invention as possible. Typically applicants for a patent will include both a written description of the invention as well as a blueprint detailing its construction. Specificity is vital when obtaining a patent to ensure protection. If you are unsure about how to draft a patent application, consult with a patent attorney.