What Is The Term Of a United States Patent?

A U.S. patent gives to a patent owner a right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention covered by the patent for a limited time defined by the “term” of the U.S. patent.  The U.S. government grants this limited monopoly in a “bargain” for full disclosure and benefit of the invention by the public after the term of the patent expires.  The term of such a U.S. patent thus reflects the value of that bargain to a U.S. patent applicant.  In deciding whether to invest in a U.S. patent application project to protect an invention, a party should consider the cost of U.S. patent services to obtain a U.S. patent relative to the value of a patent term.

The U.S. government grants different types of patents for different types of inventions.  A “utility” patent covers “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”  A “plant” patent covers an invented or discovered and asexually reproduced distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.  A “design” patent covers unique visual qualities of a manufactured item.

A U.S. design patent has term of 14 years from the date of issuance if issued from a design patent application filed before May 13, 2015 and has a term of 15 years from the date of issuance if issued from a design patent application filed on or before May 13, 2015.  A U.S. utility patent and a U.S. plant patent each have a term of 20 years from the earliest filing date.  The term of a utility patent may be extended in certain circumstances if the U.S. Patent Office introduces delays in prosecuting the related U.S. patent application and/or introduction of a product covered by the utility patent is delayed awaiting FDA approval.     

If you have questions regarding the term of a patent or if you are interested in filing a United States patent application, give us a call for a free consultation.  You can reach us at 512-993-7738 (Austin office) or 503-439-6500 (Portland office).  Or email us at 

Paul G-Nagy, Partner

Paul G. Nagy, Partner

About the Author:

Mr. Nagy’s practice focuses on patent related matters including patent application preparation and prosecution as well as analysis and litigation support, since 1994.   He has assisted clients in filing and prosecuting thousands of patent applications with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.  To learn more about Paul, Click Here 

Skip to content