A patent protects a new (or improved) product or process, and provides a market advantage: a 20 year monopoly. The patent process includes patent searching, drafting, filing, passing examination (called prosecution), maintanence, and enforcing patent rights. As patent agents and lawyers, we navigate inventors through the entirety of this complex process.
Patents protect the way things work. To protect the way something looks, please refer to our link on Industrial Designs.
A patentable invention is one that is new and unobvious over the prior art. Given the large number of ideas already in the public domain, we recommend some level of patent searching before filing. Basic searches can be carried out on the United States, Canadian, and European online patent databases. There are several benefits in enlisting our firm to carry out a patent search. Firstly, our searchers are experienced in the art of patent searching, and employ practices developed over years of searches. Effective searching requires a combination of skill and intuition - knowing what tools to use, how to use them, and where to look next, are part of the value we provide in a search. Secondly, our search reports include a legal opinion on what, if anything, is patentable. Our opinions are based on current legal standards and attitudes in the patent office. We also provide clearance searches, which are searches to see if the use of a particular technology will infringe on the patent rights of others.
A valid, effective patent is one of the most difficult legal instruments to draft. This is one of the primary areas where the experience and skill of our professionals adds value. A patent application must include a complete description of the invention, and claims that define the exclusive monopoly. The application, and particularly the claims, must be drafted with care. Too broad, and the claims will be invalid because they cover the prior art. Too narrow, and the claims can be easily designed around by competitors. An added challenge is that nothing new can be added to the application once filed. We work with the inventor to generalize the invention, identify alternate embodiments and elements, and judge where the dividing line between old and new lies. The ideal claim articulates a structure or process that includes only the elements required to cover everything on the new side of the dividing line, without limiting the claim with inessential features.
A patent application must be filed to obtain a priority date, which is the date rights are based upon. Moreover, a patent must be filed in each country in which protection is desired. Treaties exist that permit an application filed in one country to define a priority date for applications filed elsewhere within a year of the first filing. We work with inventors to develop an effective filing strategy, and we file Canadian and international (PCT) patent applications ourselves. We also use a network of trusted associates to file in the US and other foreign countries.
A patent application must pass examination before it is issued. Often the claims must be amended during examination in order to avoid prior art found by the examiner or to clarify what is being claimed. During examination we work with the inventor to develop an effective strategy to overcome objections and tailor the claims to adequately and validly cover the invention. We then execute the chosen strategy through persuasive written and oral advocacy before the patent office. We also track and pay issuance fees due after the patent is allowed.
The patent office periodically requires fees to be paid to keep the application or patent alive. We track and pay such fees on your behalf.
Patent Enforcement and Defence
Ultimately, it is up to the patentee to enforce his or her patent rights through the use of the courts. We provide analysis and representation for patentees, as well as defendants who have had patent rights asserted against them. Example analyses include infringement, validity, and risk analyses.