By definition, a patent is a form of intellectual property that protects an invention or design. More eloquently stated, "a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted."
There are different ways to evaluate patent information. You may want to address the following information:
a) Private vs. Government based business. Who has ownership?
b) How many patents do the companies hold?
c) After expiration date of patent, can generic products be created?
d) Are there licensing agreements with other companies?
e) Identify a particular patent that you think is important to the technology and brief describe what it covers
The backgound on the expiration of patents is as follows:
Because of recent changes in the law, an existing patent can fall in one of
three categories in terms of its expiration date. If the patent application
was filed after June 7, 1995, the expiration date is 20 years from the date it
was filed. If the application was filed by June 7, 1995 and issued before June
8, 1978, the expiration date is 17 years from issuance. The “best-of-both-
worlds clause” comes into effect if the application was filed by June 7, 1995
and issued after June 7, 1978, in which case the term is the later of 17 years
from issuance or 20 years from filing. These terms are accurate for both
Utility and Plant Patents, Design Patents expire 14 years from the date of
This information was found at:
(URL courtesy of Drmatt’s Comment).
How the filing date is determined depends on whether the application is for a
provisional or non-provisional patent. For a provisional patent application:
“The filing date of a provisional application is the date on which a written
description of the invention, drawings if necessary, and the name of the
inventor(s) are received in the USPTO. To be complete, a provisional
application must also include the filing fee, and a cover sheet specifying that
the application is a provisional application for patent. The applicant would
then have up to 12 months to file a non-provisional application for patent as
and for a non-provisional patent application:
“The filing date of an application for patent is the date on which a
specification (including at least one claim) and any drawings necessary to
understand the subject matter sought to be patented are received in the USPTO;
or the date on which the last part completing the application is received in
the case of a previously incomplete or defective application.”
For more information about the change in patent terms, see:
Information about extending or adjusting the expiration date of a patent can be
In addition, Micropatent provides information on patent terms that agrees with
the above information and includes references to the appropriate sections of
“Patents will Expire as Follows:
(1) The term of any utility or plant patent that is in force on or results from
an application filed before June 8, 1995 is the greater of the 20 year term
provided in 35 U.S.C. 154(a)(2) or 17 years from grant subject to any terminal
disclaimers. 35 U.S.C. 154(c)(1).
(2) All utility and plant patents granted on applications having an actual
United States filing date on or after June 8, 1995 are granted for a term which
begins on the date on which the patent is granted and ends 20 years from the
date on which the application was filed in the United States. If the
application contains a specific reference to an earlier application under 35
U.S.C. 120, 121 or 365(c), the patent term ends twenty years from that date on
which the earliest application was filed. 35 U.S.C. 154(a)(2).
(3) All design patents are granted for a term of 14 years from the date of the
grant. However, the term of any patent may have been curtailed by disclaimer
under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 153, have lapsed due to failure to pay
maintenance fees, or have been extended under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 154,
155, or 156. Thus, if more reliable information is needed with respect to a
particular patent, then the specific patent file should be reviewed to
determine the actual date of patent expiration.”