Raeford, NC asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for North Carolina

Q: how is it that during my patent search I am finding patent applications for items that have existed for years?

Finding patent applications for treestands and they've been around since the 70s. Also finding applications for things I would think are public domain like tree climbing sticks that have bee around for about 20 years or more.

2 Lawyer Answers
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
Answered
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: Because they are for some new improvements to the treestands or tree climbing sticks. Remember, it is not only new products that you can get a parent on, but also on IMPROVEMENTS to existing products.

Telephones, golf clubs, bicycles, and like, have also been around for over 100 years, but there is always some improvement that companies can patent.

Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Licensed in North Carolina

A: To add on to the earlier answer, there are two other reasons why you may be seeing patent activity on something that has been around for a while. While it is true that significant improvements continue to be made to things like the telephone more than 100 years after Bell filed his US patent, in some cases there may not be a large technical improvement in what you are seeing.

One option is that people filed patent applications while ignorant of what had been done before with patent applications or commercial products. Not everyone searches diligently before filing a patent application.

A second common option is that people file a patent application for the ornamental appearance of an object. This is called a design patent. The numbers on an issued design patent in the US start with a D for design. A design patent helps prevent others from making confusingly similar items that you think came from the source associated with the design patent. So Oakley can prevent people from copying their recent ornamental designs for sunglasses while everyone is free to make sunglasses that don't look confusingly similar.

If you found this answer helpful, you may want to look at my answers to other questions about patent law are available at the bottom of my profile page at https://lawyers.justia.com/lawyer/kevin-e-flynn-880338

Kevin E Flynn

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