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When does a patent expire?

Utility and Design Patents

Patent protection is granted for a limited period.

For a utility patent, the patent term is 20 years from the filing date of the application.

For a design patent, the patent term is 15 years from the date the patent is issued. As a result of the passage of the Patent Law Treaties Implementations Act of 2012 (PLTIA), design patents issued from applications filed before May 13, 2015, have a 14-year term.


Why are patents issued for a limited period of time?

In general, patents were created to foster innovation and creativity. In exchange for patent protection for a limited period, such as 20 years for a utility patent, society benefits from the disclosure of new inventions and information after the expiration. This exchange is intended to incentivize society to explore the unknown and discover ideas that may help benefit everyone! It’s an interesting public policy of balancing rewarding those who come up with innovations while also making sure society will be able to improve on those ideas after a set period.

Author: Savanah McLendon.

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