What Is a Patent?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  This right allows the inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, importing, or selling the invention in the United States.  Once issued, a new patent may last for 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States.  United States patent grants are effective only within the borders of the United States, United States territories, and United States possessions.

What do the terms "patent pending" and "patent applied for" mean?
They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application is on file in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A fine is imposed on those who use these terms falsely to deceive the public.

Is there any danger that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will give others information contained in my application while it is pending?
Patent applications are maintained in the strictest confidence until the patent is issued or the application is published.  After the application has been published, however, a member of the public may request a copy of the application file.  After the patent is issued, the Office file containing the application and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available in the Files Information Unit for inspection by anyone and copies of these files may be purchased from the Office .

Who owns a patent if the invention is created by two or more individuals?
If each person had a share in the ideas forming the invention as defined in the claims - even if only as to one claim, they are joint inventors and a patent will be issued to them jointly on the basis of a proper patent application.  If, on the other hand, one of these persons has provided all of the ideas of the invention, and the other has only followed instructions in making it, the person who contributed the ideas is the sole inventor and the patent application and patent shall be in his/her name alone.

Who owns a patent if I have the idea to make an invention and hire a person to build the invention?  Am I an inventor or is my employee?
You are the inventor. An inventor is the person who furnishes the ideas.

Should I trust patent promotion organizations?  Where can I go to see if these organizations are reputable?
Many Better Business Bureaus (located in the city of the organization) have information about the reputation of these organizations.  The Patent and Trademark Office also publishes complaints regarding invention promoters and replies from the invention promoters.

Are there any organizations or state programs that will help me develop and market my invention?
Yes.  Chambers of commerce in your area are helpful in meeting people who might be able to assist you.  Additionally, there are a number of other university-related, small business associations, and charitable organizations willing to assist you. Many states have development agencies which assist manufacturers and inventors in the state.

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