Answer ... A patent is “a grant to the patentee, his heirs, and assigns, of the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States, and if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process, referring to the specification for the particulars thereof” (35 USC § 154(a)).
In the case of a plant patent, “the grant shall include the right to exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts, throughout the United States, or from importing the plant so reproduced, or any parts thereof, into the United States” (35 USC § 163).
Answer ... Once a patent is issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the patent owner can enforce its right to exclude others through litigation, either in a federal court or at the US International Trade Commission (ITC).
US district courts have original jurisdiction to litigate all civil claims relating to patents (28 USC §§ 1331, 1338(a)). The ITC’s jurisdiction is narrower. Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, the ITC has jurisdiction to hear cases involving the import of articles that would infringe a US patent or the import of articles made by a process covered by a US patent (19 USC § 1337).
A patent owner may appeal a final district court or ITC decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (28 USC § 1295). Federal Circuit decisions can be further appealed to the US Supreme Court by a petition for writ of certiorari (US Const art 3, § 2; 28 USC § 1254).
Answer ... Subject to the payment of maintenance fees, utility and plant patents expire 20 years after the earliest effective filing date (35 USC § 154(a)(2)). Patents are not usually enforceable for 20 years, however, because the USPTO must issue the patent before it becomes enforceable. Thus, patents are enforceable from the time they issue until 20 years after the earliest effective filing date.
US design patents resulting from applications filed on or after 13 May 2015 have a 15-year term from the date of grant. Design patents issued from applications filed before 13 May 2015 have a 14-year term from the date of grant (35 USC § 173).
See question 3.6 for a discussion of patent term adjustment and extension, which may be available for qualifying patents.