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patent lawyer in denverIn 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued 303,051 different patents to innovators across the country. But as your patent lawyer in Denver will have told you, the patent process can be a lengthy and tedious one. Patents can protect your invention from being copied and sold by another company, but when does this patent protection actually start?

All patents must be submitted via application to the USPTO to either be approved or rejected. Once you submit your patent, it enters the "patent pending" stage. You may have seen this designation on advertisements or even on useful products in-person. Sometimes, a company may choose to put a product on the market with the "patent pending" description to deter others from stealing the idea and selling it as their own.

But just because your invention is "patent pending" doesn't mean you can pursue immediate legal action against anyone who tries to take your idea.

The American Inventors Protection Act, passed in 1999, grants infringement protection to inventions that are in the "patent pending" stage. That means that no one can legally copy your idea during the time between when you file for a patent and when one is issued to you. However, there is a catch: if someone does steal your product idea, you cannot file a lawsuit against that person or company until you receive your patent.

That said, the fact that your product is "patent pending" still carries quite a bit of weight. Because patent damages can start to accrue from the application filing date and can even be tripled if the inventor can prove another party's infringement was purposeful, most people will not try to steal your idea if they see that it's "patent pending." An inventor can also file an injunction against the offending company if they're trying to sell the product without the inventor's permission. If a company believes your invention is likely to receive a patent, they probably won't want to take these potentially costly risks.

Keep in mind, though, that it may take up to three years (or more, in some cases) to be granted a patent. The sooner you work with a patent lawyer in Denver to submit your application, the more protected you will be. While virtually anyone can submit a patent application, not every product is unique enough or useful enough to warrant approval. Some inventors spend substantial time and money on promoting a product they've submitted for patent approval without realizing their invention isn't likely to receive one in the end.

That's why it's so important to contact a patent lawyer in Denver early on in the process. That way, you'll have at least a reasonable idea that your invention will be seen as extraordinary enough to receive a patent eventually -- and in the meantime, you can market your idea with its "patent pending" designation to ensure everyone knows your product is protected.

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