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What to know about utility patents in California

Patents are vital for successful business in Irvine, California, and elsewhere. Utility patents cover the development of new or better products, machines, or processes. They restrict the use of the invention without permission. 

Here’s what to know about utility patents in California. 

Utility patents and what they cover in California

A utility patent covers the functional components of an invention. In California, utility patents are governed by the Patents Act. The law covers tangible and intangible inventions, including processes, machines, compositions of matter, and improvements to existing technology. 

Utility patents are incredibly valuable, as they allow inventors exclusive rights to their innovations for 20 years — often enough time to commercialize the invention and recoup the investment.  

Furthermore, utility patents provide a strong incentive for continued innovation as they allow inventors to profit from their ideas. 

Steps to getting a utility patent in California

To obtain a utility patent in California, the following steps must be followed:

  • First, file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application must have a detailed description of the invention and claims that define the scope of the invention’s protection. 
  • The USPTO will review the application to determine whether it meets all requirements. 
  • If the USPTO approves the application, it will issue a patent. The inventor can file for protection in California by submitting a request to the California Secretary of State.
  • Once the California Secretary of State grants protection, the inventor will have exclusive rights to use and sell the invention in the state of California. However, if the invention is later deemed unpatentable, the inventor may lose all rights to the invention.
  • A utility patent is only valid for 20 years from the filing date. After that point, anyone can use or sell the invention without permission from the inventor. 

Main issues with utility patents in California

In California, several different types of patents can be granted, each with its legal protections and requirements. 

An inventor may be required to provide proof that their invention is new and non-obvious and disclose the invention in detail to obtain a utility patent. 

Intellectual property law does not protect ideas on its own. To sue an entity that stole your idea, you would have to show that:

  • The ideas were reduced to a protectable form (such as drawings or plans) before disclosure
  • In the absence of a protectable form, the company signed a non-disclosure agreement