The Patent Office has been hosting a regular on-line chat session between inventors and PTO expert examiners. These sessions have been a great success, and the most recent session appears to have answered a number of interesting and fundamental questions. The following are a few excerpts from the forum:
Q:What happens to a Provisional Patent Application after it has been abandoned?
A: The files are disposed of after one year from the filing date.
Q: Are there any restrictions from trademarking a product name that contains Spanish words?
A: The same laws and rules apply to marks in languages other than English. Other than those requirements, a non-English mark would have to be translated for the record.
Q: How long does a patent last?
A: Utility patent protection is approximately 20 years from the filing date of the application. Design patent protection is 14 years from the issue date.
Q: How do I know that my invention isn’t going to be stolen during the application process for a patent? Can I trust an attorney? Can I apply for a patent without an attorney? What are the risks when I do that?
A: All patent applications that have not been published are kept in confidence by USPTO personnel. An attorney in your employ must keep your confidences and secrets. You can apply for an application without an attorney, however, patents are legal documents and the use of a registered patent attorney/agent is strongly encouraged.
Q: Can I apply for a design and utility patent for the same product or is this overkill?
A: Yes, you can apply for both patents. A utility patent protects a new, useful, nonobvious and adequately discussed machine, manufacture, composition of matter, process, or improvement thereof. On the other hand, a design patent protects only the appearance of an article of manufacture, not the way the article functions or the materials of its manufacture. A better mousetrap could function (work) exactly like the mousetrap of old, but have a different appearance; it would then be appropriate for a design application. If, however, it had a new function in a way it trapped mice, it could also be appropriate for a utility application.
Link: Forum Transcript