There is no one better or more honest in the business than the Greentree team,”
writes inventor/author
Richard C. Levy
in his
Complete Idiot’s Guide
to Cashing In on Your Inventions

About Patents

What is a patent?

It is a legal monopoly over an invention for up to 20-years for utility and plant patents, and 14-years for design patents.

What legal rights do I get with a patent?

A patent owner can legally exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing the invention into the United States.

A plant patent owner can legally exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, selling, or using the plant covered by the patent.

What can be patented?

A utility patent may be obtained for a:
  • Process,
  • Machine,
  • Article of manufacture, or
  • Composition of matter
A patent may also be obtained for an improvement of an existing device, method, etc. In addition, a design or a plant patent may be obtained.

What can I do with a patent?

You have a wide spectrum of choices since a patent is similar to a personal property. You may license the patent to one or more persons for a royalty, sell for a price, assign, mortgage, etc.

Do I need to build a prototype or manufacture the device before applying for a patent?


How do I go about getting a patent?

A patent is obtained by preparing and filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, located in Arlington, Virginia (within ten minutes from our office). Although not required, we recommend conducting a patent search to determine patentability of an idea.

How do I find out whether or not someone has already patented my idea?

A patent search of the patent office records should disclose not only this, but also other similar patents.

What does it mean by "patent pending" or "patent applied for"?

These terms may be used to inform the public that an application is on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Quite often, people speak of "claims" in a patent. What is a claim?

A utility patent generally includes one or more claims which recite the novel features of the invention.Claims also determine the scope (metes and bounds) of the rights granted by the government.

Can I market my idea first and then apply for a patent?

The U.S. Patent Law offers a one-year grace period from publication or public disclosure in which to file an application. However, it is considered risky to market the invention prior to filing an application. In addition, foreign filing rights are generally lost by pre-filing public disclosure.

Is a U.S. patent valid throughout the rest of the world?

A U.S. patent is only valid within the United States. If legal protection is desired in other countries, then foreign patents must be obtained individually in the countries of choice.

Can a patent be renewed?

No. Once a patent expires, anyone is free to copy the invention without any obligation to the patent owner.

Do I need to hire an attorney to obtain a patent?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office strongly recommends that the prospective applicants/inventors engage the services of a patent attorney or agent as the patent application process can be complex and the Patent and Trademark Office cannot assist in the preparation and prosecution of applications.

How do I find a patent attorney?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office maintains a roster of patent attorneys and agents registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Inventors may also consult telephone directories in their local area, or by calling (703) 555-1212, to locate attorneys near the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Patent Glossary


U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, located in Alexandria, Virginia.


Patent Cooperation Treaty. Comprised of 100 member countries that afford citizens of other countries similar patent rights.


World Intellectual Property Organization, located in Geneva, Switzerland. Responsible for administering the PCT International filings.


European Patent Office.


Japanese Patent Office.

International/ PCT Application

A patent application filed under the PCT provisions for seeking protection in multiple countries.


A person responsible for reviewing patent applications for issuance of patents. Trained in law and usually have technical background.

Office Action

A detailed response from the PTO, outlining reasons for compliance/ non-compliance of a patent application under the statute for issuance of a patent.

Final Rejection

A detailed response from the PTO finally rejecting an application for a patent.


A personal meeting with the Examiner-in-Charge of a patent application to resolve pending issues for obtaining allowance.


Formally known as Notice of Allowance. The official notification from the PTO indicating Examiner's approval for the grant of a patent.


A review of prior art to determine whether or not the invention is already known.

Prior Art

The information already in public domain. Typically includes prior U.S. and foreign patents, publications, technical/ scientific literature, articles, etc.

Provisional Application

A patent application containing legally prescribed specification and drawings. It is not examined, does not result into a patent, and is kept pending for only 12 months.

Regular Application

A patent application containing legally prescribed specification, drawings, and claims. Is examined as to merits and may result into a patent.


A review of a patent application by a PTO Examiner to determine formal, as well as substantive compliance, under the law for issuance of a patent.


Correspondence with the PTO, including an Examiner, to obtain Allowance of a patent application. Typically includes amending an application, presenting arguments for patent -ability, overcoming Examiner's objections/rejections and completing formal requirements to obtain a patent.

Utility Patent

A patent covering the structure and/or operation of, for example, a device.

Design Patent

A patent covering the ornamental aspects (overall aesthetics) of an article.

Plant Patent

A patent covering a distinct and new variety of an asexually reproduced plant.


Legal language defining the metes and bounds of an invention. A utility patent typically includes several claims of different/ varying scope. An independent claim stands on its own. A dependent claim includes its own subject matter and that which is recited in the independent claim it depends from.

Public Search Room

The PTO's library of all U.S. patents issued since 1790. Open to public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday- Friday.


The PTO's Manual of Patent Examination and Procedure.

CFR 37

Code of Federal Regulations for Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights.

Patent Attorney

An attorney licensed to represent people before the courts and the PTO. Has both technical and law degrees.

Patent Agent

A person admitted to represent people before the PTO. Has a technical degree.


A person who conducts searches, typically at the PTO. A patent searcher typically has a technical background in electrical, chemical, and/or mechanical disciplines, is familiar with the PTO's Manual of Classification, and has an understanding of the overall patent process.

Manual of Classification

All technologies (for example, fishing to robotics) are divided into PTO's 432+ classes, which are further subdivided into 200,000 subclasses. The current Manual is about 6" thick