2020 was a year that seemed to put everything on hold. The coronavirus pandemic led to stay at home and shelter in place orders throughout the country. Many businesses shut down and shifted to a focus on remote work. It may seem like 2020 would be a year when innovation would plummet. This may not be the case. The Information for Industry, Inc (IFI) Claims Patent Services group reports that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted 352,013 patents in 2020, down only slightly from the 354,428 granted in 2019.
It is important to note that there is often an 18-month lag between when the filing of a patent application and publication. There is also the likelihood that innovation during 2020 may have paused, meaning the true impact of the pandemic on innovation is not yet known.
Those who were able to power through these difficult times and develop intellectual property that is worth protecting are wise to consider a patent. Before moving forward with an application, it is important to know the following:
- There are limitations on protections. Patents are generally only available for inventions that the USPTO deems new and useful. If these limits are met and the USPTO grants the patent, only the holder of the patent can sell or use the invention.
- There are two steps to the application process. First, the provisional application. Inventors have 12 months after the invention to file for provisional protection. Next, the non-provisional application. This is more complex and, if approved, would lead to full patent protections.
- Rejection is not the end. You can fight back if the USPTO denies your application. This generally requires filing a Request for Continuation Examination Form with the agency.
Once your application is approved and you have a patent, you can protect your intellectual property while continuing to grow your business ventures.