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What is the term of a patent?

The term of a patent refers to the length of time during which the patent holder can exercise these exclusive rights. The exclusive rights of a patent are granted by a government authority to an inventor, giving them the exclusive right to make, use, sell, and distribute their invention for a limited period. In exchange for this monopoly, the inventor must publicly disclose the details of the invention, contributing to the broader pool of knowledge and fostering further innovation.

In the United States, the term for new utility patents is 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. For design patents, the term is 15 years from the grant date. The filing date of a utility patent refers to the date on which the first patent application related to an invention is submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The date of issue of a design patent refers to the date on which the USPTO officially grants the patent rights for a design to the applicant. In the European Patent Office (EPO), similar to the United States, the term of a patent is 20 years from the filing date of the application.

In the U.S., a patent term adjustment (PTA) may extend the term of a utility or plant patent to compensate for delays caused by the USPTO during the patent examination process. PTAs are not available for reissue and design patents.

The U.S. patent term can be increased if the USPTO fails to:

  • issue a first Official Action or notice of allowance within fourteen months of filing;

  • issue an action within four months of an applicant's response to an Official Action;

  • issue the patent within four months of payment of the issue fee.

The patent term will also be extended if the USPTO fails to issue a patent within three years of the application's actual filing date, with certain provisos. The patent term will also be increased for delays caused by interference proceedings, secrecy orders, and successful appeals.

Any extension resulting from USPTO delays will be reduced if the applicant fails to conduct reasonable efforts to conclude processing or examination, including:

  • taking more than three months to reply to any notice or action by the USPTO making any rejection, objection, argument, or other request, or

  • any of several other separately enumerated specific circumstances resulting in delay, such as filing incomplete responses.

These latter reductions only reduce any positive adjustments to the patent term. They cannot reduce the patent term below the standard term of 20 years from the filing date.

The USPTO will calculate a PTA based on these factors. Once the USPTO issues a PTA for a granted patent, the owner of that patent may contest the calculation.

To discuss patent terms, contact TCP Law at or John Laurence by phone at 917-612-1059.


John Laurence TCP Law, Trademark Patent Copyright Lawyer

TCP Law focuses on helping individuals and businesses develop, secure, and enforce their intellectual property rights.

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