The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently announced a new tool for patent holders. The online calculator enables members of the public to estimate the expiration date of a utility, plant, or design patent.
In general, patents based on applications filed after June 8, 1995 last for 20 years, starting from the application’s filing date. However, the patent termcan be shortened or extended by a number of factors, including:
- Type of application (utility, design, plant);
- Filing date of the application;
- The grant date of the patent;
- Benefit claims under 35 U.S.C. § 120, 121 or 365(c);
- Patent term adjustments and extensions under 35 U.S.C. § 154;
- Patent term extensions under 35 U.S.C. § 156;
- Terminal disclaimer(s); and
- Timely payment of maintenance fees.
As detailed by the USPTO, its new calculator tool “provides a best estimate of a patent’s expiration date, based on a comprehensive list of factors than can be found in USPTO records.” The calculator can be downloaded at www.uspto.gov/patents/law/patent_term_calculator.jsp.
While the calculator can provide valuable information, we recommend that individuals and companies still consult with an experienced patent attorney to determine if a patent is still in force. The USPTO also agrees, noting, “Before relying on an expiration date, individuals should always carefully inspect all relevant documents available through the USPTO, court records and elsewhere, and consult with an attorney.”