What is Patent Law?

J. Beam
J. Beam
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Patent law is a specific area of law that encompasses the legal regulation, jurisprudence, and enforcement of specific intellectual property rights known as patent rights. A patent is a government issued right granted to individuals or groups that protects their original inventions from being made, used, or sold by others without their permission for a set period of time. While patents can be legally obtained without the use of an attorney, an attorney who specializes in patent law can help ensure that their client’s patent is enforceable by law. Because this type of law pertains to intellectual property, which is like any other property in that it can be legally sold, exchanged, traded, or abandoned, the finer points of patent law are frequently amended as technology changes. This is another reason why an attorney specializing in this type of law is of significant use to those seeking a patent.

Under United States patent law, three criteria must be applicable to the invention before a patent is granted. The invention must be new, useful, and not obvious to those with ordinary skills in any area related to the invention. These particular requirements are, from time to time, subjective. New obviously means that the invention was not previously in existence. As it pertains to patent law, useful is defined as providing a benefit meant for a legitimate purpose or use. The one area of this law that is particularly subjective is defining whether an invention is obvious or not.

Patent law pertains not only to the processes governing applying for and granting a patent, but also to enforcing existing patents. It is the patent holder’s responsibility to pursue a violation of his or her patented rights. A patent violation can be argued in court, but it is a very complex and expensive procedure. This is one area in which patent law seems skewed, because small inventors and companies can easily be outdone by larger, wealthier corporations, and it is difficult for the minority to afford defense or litigation expenses.

Like other areas of law that pertain to intellectual property, patent law is very complex. Inventors should be thorough and careful when applying for a patent and should consult an attorney when possible. Despite popular misconception, you cannot mail yourself a copy of your invention or the detailed processes regarding an invention and consider it legally patented, copyrighted, trademarked, or otherwise legally protected.

Discussion Comments


My son has some sort of invention, and he wanted to register it so that it will be protected. What are the procedures, guidelines and requirements to comply?


@JoseJames, the problem with your logic lies in the fact that these large corporations often pay heavy research costs from their profit lines in order to develop the concepts that the patent. Sure, patent law can be both costly and annoying but these business organizations specifically make money and operate to further develop the technology and information that they bring to the public market. Can you blame them for tying to make sure others don't profit off of their research.


What I find interesting about patent law and the patent process in America is the abuse by large corporations that can afford to submit patents in large numbers.

There is nothing wrong with trying to preserve proper rights to new ideas and thoughts but what happens often times is these organizations will submit patents for products that will never be developed or mass manufactured.

Apple is famous for filing such patents and never acting on the information and protected knowledge.

Maybe they could leave some room for the small guys.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Scientist with beakers
      Scientist with beakers