Carla Gannon Law
Patents · Trademarks · Copyrights
Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between a patent, trademark and copyright?

A patent protects an idea, a trademark identifies the source of a product, and a copyright protects the expression of an idea. 


I have an idea.  Can you help me launch it as a product?

The practice is limited to obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights.  I am not qualified to advise on manufacturing, marketing, tax implications, incorporations, business plans, and so forth.


Do you offer a free consultation?

I can answer a quick question or two over the phone.  A half-hour consultation is $100.



What types of patents are there?

A utility patent protects a device, method or product.  A design patent protects the ornamental design of a product.  Plant patents protect certain plants.


What is a provisional patent application?

A provisional application is a “quick and dirty” invention disclosure that is filed with the Patent Office.  It is typically less expensive to prepare and file than a regular application.  It does not provide substantive rights, but is used as a preliminary step in the patenting process.


How do I get “patent pending” status?

“Patent pending” applies once a patent application is filed, and lasts until the application is abandoned or it issues as a patent. 


How long does it take to get a patent?

It typically takes at least 4 years from filing to issuance.  Ten or more years isn’t unusual. 


Do I need a working prototype to file a patent application?

A working prototype isn’t required, but you need to be able to describe how to make/use or perform the invention in sufficient detail that someone can make/use/perform it themselves without undue experimentation.


What are the benefits of having a patent?

A patent holder can sue to stop unauthorized people from making, selling, using and importing the patented invention.  Alternatively, a patent holder can sue to recover monetary damages when their invention has been made/sold/used/imported without authorization.


How do I know if anyone else has anything like it?

A general search of the internet may reveal other inventions like yours.  Also, there are many good sites for searching patents and published patent applications, such as or or


Can I file a patent application myself?

An inventor may file their own patent application, but this is not advised.


What is the patent application process?

Typically, a patent application is prepared and filed, and approximately 2 years later the Patent Office refuses to allow the application for a variety of reasons.  The patent attorney will respond to those rejections by amending patent claims and presenting arguments.  Usually the Patent Office and attorney go through several rounds of this, over the course of months or years.  Eventually the patent is allowed, or abandoned.


How long is a patent valid?

A utility patent is valid for 20 years from the filing date.


How much does it cost to get a patent?

Based on current fees, expect to pay at least $20,000 over the course of the patent life.  There are legal and Patent Office costs associated with almost every step of the process from filing the application, to responding to various communications, to issue fees, and maintenance fees over the course of the patent life.


I have heard a lot about the recently passed Patent Reform Act.  What does this mean to me?

The United States is transitioning to a “first to file” system.  Clients should consult their patent attorney early in the invention development process, versus waiting.



Can I get a trademark on my business name?

Trademarks are issued to marks which distinctively identify the source of a good or service.  Whether or not a specific mark is distinctive depends on various factors, including whether or not the mark is already used in commerce.  Registered marks can be searched on the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) through the US Patent and Trademark Office at


Can I file a trademark application myself?

An applicant can file their own trademark application.


How much does it cost to get a trademark?

Searching and filing typically costs about $1,000.  Subsequent fees are typically less than $500.



What are copyrights for?

Copyrights protect the tangible form of a work of art, for example a painting, book, poem, recorded song, or sculpture.


What is the difference between and ?

“” indicates that a work has been copyrighted, and “” indicates that the work has been registered with the Copyright Office.


Should I copyright my work?

Yes.  This puts everyone on notice that it is your work and that you don’t want it copied.


How do I copyright my work?

Affix “” to your work.


Should I register my work?

Registering your work is appropriate if you wish to recover damages from someone who is copying your work.


How do I register my work?

Registration is fairly straightforward and economical, and can be accomplished through the Library of Congress website at  Alternatively an attorney can assist you.



I want to pitch my idea to a company that might be interested.  How can I prevent them from stealing my idea?

It is best that an inventor files a patent application before discussing their invention with anyone.  At the very least, an inventor should get all other parties to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before discussing the invention.


I’m going to be collaborating with someone on a project.  How can I be sure they don’t subsequently use information I shared with them?

There are various agreements which unambiguously parse out ownership of intellectual property.  These agreements should be in place before collaboration begins.



The information provided on this site is for general information only, and should not be relied upon for making substantive legal or business decisions.  information contained herein should not be construed as legal advice.

Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights
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