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What is a patent?

A patent is a property right granted to an inventor by a government authority in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention. The holder of this right, the “patentee,” can exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention for a limited time.


Do I need a patent to practice my invention?

No, you do not need your own patent to practice your invention. However, you need to make sure nobody else’s patent covers it.


Can I patent my invention?

Yes, unless someone has already made it before, or unless it would have been obvious to do so. Because U.S. patents and patent applications are available to the public, an easy way to begin your search is through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Non-patent searches of the prior art can be performed in many ways, including using internet-based key word search strategies.


What are the different types of patents?

There are several types of patents. The most common is a “utility patent.” These are granted for machines, methods, compositions of matter, and manufactured articles that have some use. There are also “design patents” for ornamental designs. Finally, there are “plant patents,” which are for new plants. Except where otherwise noted, the discussion here refers to utility patents.

More Information


John W. Powell presents at the 2014 ThreatLab conference

O&R partner John Powell provided the keynote address for threatLAB 2014, which took place in Las Vegas in May 2014.  Powell, former vice president and general counsel for American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC), presented a case study about an insider threat AMSC faced in 2011 that resulted in extraordinary value degradation for AMSC and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. His presentation was titled: “Sinovel Trade Secret Theft: Case Study of AMSC’s Successful Litigation and Conviction After Purported Chinese Corporate Espionage of AMSC Trade Secrets.”

threatLAB is an all-inclusive event that enables cross-functional thought leadership focused on current advanced persistent and insider threats. The threatLAB experience brings together senior decision makers within the Fortune 500, spanning all industry verticals, from high technology and manufacturing to healthcare and critical infrastructure. threatLAB participants have the opportunity to discuss current threat vectors and adversarial methodologies targeting intellectual assets directly with an array of experts. Attendees are introduced to timely real-world case studies via scripted interactive sessions which will challenge, educate, and provoke thought.

Powell will be presenting at this year’s threatLAB event to be held on May 20 and 21, 2015 in Las Vegas.


John Powell Featured as Part of DOJ’s 2015 Trade Secrets/Economic Espionage Seminar

On February 19, 2015, O&R Partner John Powell spoke at the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2015 Trade Secrets/Economic Espionage Seminar, discussing American Superconductor’s (AMSC) case of trade secret theft, including what federal prosecutors and federal agents need to know about working with victims of trade secret theft. AMSC’s case is one of the most devastating theft of trade secrets cases in U.S. history, costing AMSC hundreds of millions of dollars. It involves a Chinese corporation which conspired with an AMSC insider to steal AMSC’s valuable wind turbine control software

The Trade Secrets/Economic Espionage Seminar course is intended for prosecutors and federal agents who investigate and prosecute trade secret theft and economic espionage cases. The course is designed to provide a practical learning experience based on case studies, panel discussions, and topical lectures. Topics include best practices in investigating and charging trade secret cases, the use of protective orders to guard trade secrets during the criminal justice process and other discovery issues, special issues involving related civil litigation, working with industry, sentencing and valuation issues, the differences between trade secret theft and economic espionage, and the approval process for charging economic espionage. A number of recent trade secret and economic espionage act cases are featured.