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Both businesses and investors commonly have misconceptions regarding how patent law works. This is an impediment both towards individual inventors who might not understand the leverage they have to protecting their ideas and towards the larger business world which could be hurt by a lack of innovation. This primer on patent law can help you get a better understanding of the rules in place.

Patents Don’t Secure You Internationally

Patent law is municipal rather than international in nature, and that means that if you want to bring your product to market, you have to recognize that your patent laws might not apply in other countries. But that shouldn’t stop you from applying for a PCT application. While these don’t give you an enforceable patent in every market naturally, it does give you the right to apply for patents in any given international territory. That’s a necessity if you plan to market your product outside of your home country.

Understanding Patent Applications

While the term “patent pending” may be part of the common parlance, it doesn’t amount to much. Having a patent pending just means that you’ve turned in an application, and until that application is approved, you don’t have protections under patent law. Provisional patents are similarly misunderstood. A provisional patent is in itself just an application for a patent, and it will never mature to a patent on its own. If you’ve filed a provisional patent, you must file for a non-provisional patent within 12 months.

Patent Numbers Aren’t Always a Necessity

Having a patent number on your product is undoubtedly a good thing. It can increase the reward settlement for damages in case your patent is violated, but you may have legal recourse even if your product doesn’t have a patent number. That said, you do need some sort of labeling in place. This can take the place of physical marking with the word “pat” or “patent” on either the product itself or its packaging. Increasingly, manufacturers are linking their patent marking to an online URL that provides details on the patent numbering.

A Patent Isn’t Permission to Sell a Product

A patent merely provides you with the right to prohibit others from making use of your patented idea. But it doesn’t provide you with the right to manufacture products using your patent. If you don’t have the right to produce products with your patent, cross-licensing can allow you to get the benefits of the patent without having to jump through the legal hoops to manufacture or build the production infrastructure.