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How long does a utility patent last?

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The life of a utility patent may vary. 

Since June 8, 1995, any newly filed patent has a life of 20 years from its application filing date.  However, this may be adjusted during prosecution.

If a newly-filed patent claims common material to an earlier-filed patent, it may have been subject to a terminal disclaimer that limits the new patent or individual claims in the new patent to 20 years from the filing date of the original patent.

Also, if the USPTO caused any delay, the term may be extended to take that into consideration.  No extension will apply for any delay caused by the applicant, however.

Prior to June 8, 1995, and applicable to all patents that issued prior to that date or were in the application process prior to that date, the term of a patent was 17 years from the date of its issue.  While terminal disclaimers are still applicable to shorten the term, no extension of time is applicable because the life will still be 17 years no matter how long it might take at the USPTO.


For more information on intellectual property, please visit Patent, Trademark, Copyright Information.

The content of this article is not intended to be, and does not constitute, legal advice and does not create attorney-client privilege. Consult the attorney of your choice before embarking on any legal matter or any document preparation/filing.

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Dr. Thomas R. (Terry) Williamson III is a Patent Attorney practicing in Atlanta, Georgia.

C2008, Williamson Intellectual Property Law, LLC; all rights reserved, world-wide.

Williamson Intellectual Property Law, LLC
1870 The Exchange, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30339
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Williamson Intellectual Property Law, LLC
1870 The Exchange, Suite 100 - Atlanta, Georgia 30339