Inventors' must-read!

Nolo's Patents for Beginners

A brilliantly clear and up-to-date patent guide

What are patents? Why do you need one? How do you get it? Here's the primer every first-time inventor needs. Nolo's Patents for Beginners defines what a patent is and what it can do for you. Step by step, it explains how to:

  • use basic patent principles
  • conduct a patent search
  • acquire patent rights
  • Product Details
  • This bestselling primer is packed with everything inventors need to know about patent law basics, including the latest implications of the America Invents Act, the most important change to American patent law in two centuries.

    Nolo's Patents for Beginners helps inventors:

    • document an invention
    • "read and write" patents
    • understand how and why to make a patent search
    • determine patent ownership
    • acquire patent rights
    • understand the basics of patent infringement
    • get international patent protection, and
    • decide whether to file a provisional patent.

    You’ll also find patent and invention resources and a glossary of patent terms. This new edition is completely updated to cover all the latest changes in patent law and regulations.

    "Will help minimize legal fees by preparing you to do what you can for yourself..." - Dallas Morning News

    "The ideal introduction to the patenting process." - Bookwatch

    Number of Pages
  • About the Author
    • David Pressman

      Originally from Philadelphia, San Francisco Patent Attorney David Pressman is a graduate of Penn State University (BSEE) and George Washington University Law School (JD) where he was on the Law Review. He has over 40 years of experience in the patent profession -- as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent Office, a patent attorney in corporate and private practice, a university instructor, a columnist, and as author of the Patent and Trademark entries to the World Book Encyclopedia. He is an expert on patent filing, prosecution, and licensing and his books have charted the path for over 300,000 inventors. Patent It Yourself is the most highly recommended guide to patenting an invention. Dave is also co-author of How to Make Patent Drawings Yourself (with Jack Lo), Patent Pending In 24 Hours (with Rich Stim), and Patents For Beginners (with Rich Stim).

    • Richard Stim, Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

      Attorney Richard Stim specialized in small business, copyright, patents, and trademark issues at Nolo. He has authored many books, including Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business; Patent, Copyright & Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference; and Profit From Your Idea. Stim regularly answers readers' intellectual property questions at his blog.

  • Table of Contents
  • Your Legal Companion

    1. Patents and Intellectual Property Law

    • What Is a Patent?
    • The Three Types of Patents
    • Patent Rights
    • The Requirements for Obtaining a Patent
    • How Long Do Patent Rights Last?
    • How Patent Rights Can Be Lost
    • Intellectual Property-The Big Picture
    • Trademarks
    • Copyright
    • Trade Secrets
    • Unfair Competition

    2. Qualifying for a Patent

    • Legal Requirements for a Utility Patent
    • Statutory Classes
    • Utility
    • Novelty and Prior Art
    • Nonobviousness
    • Design Patent Requirements
    • Plant Patent

    3. Invention Documentation

    • The Importance of Documentation
    • Lab Notebook
    • Invention Disclosure
    • Trade Secret Considerations

    4. Patent Searching

    • Principles of Patent Searching
    • Hiring a Patent Searcher
    • Do It Yourself Searching

    5. Reading and Writing Patents

    • Elements of a Patent
    • Invention and Inventor Data
    • Specification
    • Claims
    • Abstract
    • Drawings
    • Preparation of a Patent Application
    • Specification (Including Description, Claims, and Abstract) and Drawings
    • Electronic Filing (The EFS System)

    6. Patent Prosecution and the PTO

    • Patent Prosecution: The Road to Allowance
    • Responding to a Final Office Action
    • Additional Application Issues
    • Design Patent Prosecution

    7. Patent Ownership

    • The Inventor Is Initial Owner of Patent Rights
    • Employee Inventions
    • Joint Owners

    8. Patent Infringement

    • What Is Patent Infringement?
    • Who Can Sue, Who Can Be Sued?
    • Stopping Patent Infringement
    • Defenses to Patent Infringement
    • Ending Disputes Without a Lawsuit

    9. International Patent Law

    • Introduction to Foreign Patent Treaties and Laws
    • Putting It Together: The Most Common Route for U.S. Inventors Seeking Foreign Patent Coverage
    • The Paris Convention and the One-Year Foreign Filing Rule
    • The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
    • European Patent Office (EPO)
    • Locating Foreign Patent Agents

    10. Help Beyond This Book

    • Inventor Resources
    • Patents and Intellectual Property Resources
    • Working With an Attorney



  • Sample Chapter
  • Your Legal Companion

    The title of this book may have you wondering. Can patents—an area of law filled with arcane terminology, strange rules, and scientific jargon—really be reduced to a beginner’s level?

    Don’t fear. We’re convinced that with a little diligence, anyone can understand the basics of patent law.

    Keep in mind that the major principle underlying patent protection has not changed since 1790. If you devise something new and it qualifies for a patent, you can, for a limited time, prevent anyone else from making, selling, or using it. However, the technological changes of the past 25 years have dramatically altered the patent landscape. The number of utility patent applications has nearly tripled since 1980. In all, more than ten million patents have been granted since the United States began its patent program in 1790. (Patent numbering didn’t begin until 1836.)

    Patents are now considered an integral part of a corporation’s strategic business plan. And this strategy is not limited to corporate boardrooms. For example, the total revenue for university patents has gone from less than one million dollars in 1980 to more than half a billion dollars today.

    The patent system has also become far more accessible than it was two decades ago. You can now search patent records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), on Google, or at many other websites. Patent forms and rules can now be easily downloaded, and patents and other documentation can be filed online.

    To stay current with the modern world of patents, we have created a compact modern patent guide that explains patent law and provides clear instructions for deciphering and searching for patents. This book is intended for use by inventors, educators, entrepreneurs, students, non-patent attorneys, and businesspeople who must deal with and understand basic principles of patent law.

    Chapters are organized into four categories: basic patent principles, rules for documenting and acquiring patent rights, patent ownership and disputes, and international patent law (Chapter 10 provides helpful resources):

    • Principles of patent law. The first two chapters explain basic patent principles, the types of patents, the innovations that can and cannot be protected, novelty, nonobviousness, and the statutory standards for patent protection.
    • Documenting, searching, and prosecuting patents. Chapter 3 describes invention documentation. Chapter 4 describes patent searching, and Chapter 5 describes how to read and write a patent application. Chapter 6 describes patent prosecution—the process of shepherding the patent application through the PTO.
    • Ownership and patent disputes. Chapter 7 provides information about ownership rights (for example, how inventors claim joint ownership and its implications). Chapter 8 focuses on the issues of litigating patent disputes and standards for patent infringement.
    • International law. Chapter 9 provides rules for international patent protection.
    • Resources. We have provided a Glossary to assist in deciphering patent law. Additionally, Chapter 10 offers additional inventor and patent resources.

    An instructor using the book as a teaching tool can proceed systematically through the chapters beginning with principles of protection, followed by patent application principles, and culminating with patent disputes and international patent law. For students, the material includes current case law, references, and examples.

    Get Updates and More Online

    When there are important changes to the information in this book, we’ll post updates online, on a page dedicated to this book:

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