Answer ... The primary sources of patent law in the United States are the US Constitution, federal statutes and regulations and case law. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution grants Congress the power “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”.
Pursuant to this grant, Congress has enacted statutes that govern different aspects of patent law, including patentable subject matter, conditions for patentability and remedies for infringement. These statutes are primarily codified in Title 35 of the United States Code. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the patent laws as they relate to the granting of patents and has passed federal regulations governing its operations, which are codified in Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Lastly, US district courts and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) also interpret patent statutes and regulations. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive appellate jurisdiction for patent cases, and its decisions are binding on all US federal district courts and the US ITC. The Supreme Court will occasionally hear appeals from the Federal Circuit and its decisions are binding on the Federal Circuit, the US district courts and the ITC.
Answer ... Only the inventor, co-inventors or a party to which the inventor has assigned the invention may apply for a patent (35 USC § 118). An inventor must be a human (35 USC § 100(f)), but an assignee may be either a person or a non-human entity, such as a university or corporation. Inventors or assignees can apply for a patent themselves or engage a licensed patent agent or patent attorney to represent them before the USPTO.
If the inventor is unable to apply for a patent – for example, if the inventor is deceased or legally incapacitated – a legal representative may apply for a patent on behalf of the inventor (35 USC § 117).
Officers and employees of the USPTO cannot apply for or acquire the rights to any patents “during the period of their appointments and for one year thereafter” (35 USC § 4).