A patent office is a government body that is responsible for approving or denying any patent applications submitted by applicants for inventions. Once an application has been approved by the office, the applicant is granted the exclusive right to make, use, or sell the invention for a set period of time. Typically, a patent office is staffed by people who have been formally registered to practice before the office. These individuals are often also licensed attorneys.
Most offices grant patents that are effective only within the borders of their own countries. If an applicant is granted a patent in one country, he or she must generally submit a separate application to an office in each foreign country in order to get foreign patent rights. Most countries have their own patent rules and charge filing fees. As a result, filing a patent with multiple foreign offices can be an expensive undertaking.
Many patent offices have designated a specific process for the filing of patents. In general, an applicant is first required to search a database of patent records in order to determine whether another person has already patented his or her invention. If the invention hasn’t been patented, the applicant can submit an application to the office. The office will undertake a patent prosecution, during which it determines whether the patent will be granted or denied.
If the patent is denied, the applicant usually has the right to appeal the decision to an appeals board. The applicant is normally responsible for paying any fees associated with the application process. The patent office may also charge fees for maintaining or renewing a patent.
In addition to approving patents, a patent office publishes and distributes information relating to patents, and it records instances in which a patentholder assigns his or her invention to another person or entity. It also serves as an official record custodian. In this capacity, it may retain a database of national and international records. Additionally, a patent office generally provides the public with a facility to search and inspect patents already on file.
In some countries, patent offices are more generally referred to as intellectual property offices. In addition to reviewing patent applications, they also handle issues relating to trademarks and copyrights. A trademark is a type of protection offered for logos that differentiate a particular product or service. Copyrights are granted to protect certain works, such as a literary, artistic, or musical creation.