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History and Purpose
The first Article of the U.S. Constitution, Section VIII, provides the basis for the U.S. patent system. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 8]. In this article, the Founding Fathers granted to Congress the power to form a system "to promote the progress of Science and useful arts by securing for limited terms to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." [Id]. Almost a century
after the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln expressed his support for the patent system when he stated that "the patent system .... add[s] the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery of new and useful things."
Clearly, the purpose of the patent system, from its earliest beginnings was to provide inventors and their employers with the incentive to create and fund the development of new and useful technologies. The patent laws have accomplished this by providing the inventor or employer with some assurance that he will be able to recover the development costs associated with the technology and then receive some additional reward for his efforts as well.
The incentive the Government chose to offer was the granting of an exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of years sufficient to enable the recovery of these costs and, if all goes well, to return a profit. In exchange for this exclusive grant of monopolistic rights, you, the inventor, must provide the public with a full written and graphical disclosure of your invention, sufficient to enable a person
having ordinary skill in the field of the invention to make and use the invention.
Think of a patent as part of a bilateral agreement with the government, an agreement where both parties benefit if the terms are honored. If you do not honor the terms, this may result in a court declaring your patent invalid. Failing to disclose the "best mode" (the best configuration of your invention) at the time of the filing of your patent application is a violation of the terms of the agreement and, as such, can be objected to by the patent examiner.
Who may Obtain a Patent
Bars to Obtaining Patent Protection
The Patent Search
The Special Problems of Joint Inventorship and Assignments
Types of Patents
Design Patents vs. Utility Patents
Patent Protection in Foreign Countries
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