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Demystifying Patent Jargon
This is all you really need to know about patents. That’s it!
Public Disclosure

The first public disclosure of the details of your invention. E.g. pitched at a public event, presented at a conference, or offered invention for sale.

In the U.S., public disclosure of an invention results in the loss of patentability of the invention after a period of one year. You can prevent such a loss by filing a provisional patent application prior to any type of public disclosure.

First inventor to file (FITF)

In a first-to-file system, the right to the grant of a patent for a given invention lies with the first person to file a patent application for protection of that invention, regardless of the date of actual invention.

Patent infringement

Using, making or selling someone’s patented tech without the permission from the patent holder. The onus is on the patent holder to enforce it. Permission may typically be granted in the form of a license. In many countries, a use is required to be commercial (or to have a commercial purpose) to constitute patent infringement

Freedom to Operate (FTO)

A detailed analysis to determine whether your invention may infringe on existing patents or legal restriction.

Patent Litigation

It is the legal process that unfolds when someone who owns the patent for a particular invention enforces their right by suing another for manufacturing or selling the invention without permission.

Application Date

The date on which the patent office received the original patent application. You reserve priority to the earliest filed application, e.g. provisional patent application.

Patent Assignment

The person or company that applies for the patent and intends to “work” the invention. If you are the sole inventor, you are the Applicant and Assignee. If you assign all rights to your company (typical in a startup/company), you are still the inventor, but the company is the Assignee.

Industrial Applicability

The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be "useful" in some industrial application. This means that the invention must have some useful purpose, before a patent can be granted.

Inventive Step

An inventive step is a feature that makes your invention novel or non obvious. This is the most critical part of the invention. You must articulate your inventive step in the earliest filed application to get credit to that application.


It is a collection of inventive steps. These define the invention that the applicant wishes to protect. A main claim will define the invention in its broadest form, by including its essential technical features. Further "dependant" claims can then relate to additional features of the invention.


If an application for a patent is to be successful, the invention must be novel or “new.” It is very rare that an invention has never been disclosed before in some article or another patent application. An initial search would help determine whether this is the case.

Obviousness vs. Non-obviousness

To get your patent issued, your invention must be a non-obvious improvement over prior patents. This is typically the case. Most inventions have already been disclosed in some shape or form. Your improvement in a non-obvious way, no matter how small, can be your invention.


A full examination conducted by a patent examiner to determine whether to grant or reject the patent application. It is quite involved, and there can be a lot of back-and-forth. It takes an average of 5 years to get a patent granted and issued. More than 50% of the applications do not pass the rigorous examination process, largely because someone else had already invented or disclosed your idea.

We recommend you consult a lawyer before you decide to file a non-provisional application. Once the non-provisional has been filed, we highly recommended that you hire a lawyer to help you navigate the patenting process with the USPTO.

Expiry Date

The date when a patent document has run its full term or is no longer valid. For issued patents, they expire after 20 years, and it is counted from the date of filing.

USPTO or simply PTO

The United States Patent and Trademark Office headquartered in Alexandria, VA examines and grants rights to patents and trademarks in the US.

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