How Long Does Patent Protection Last?
3 minute read
April 19, 2024


You may have successfully secured a patent for your innovation or invention, but how long does that patent protection last? 

Understanding the lifespan of patent protection is a fundamental component of trademark and business strategy to maximize the benefits of your innovations. 

What is the patent process? How long does patent protection last? Does this duration vary by type of patent or product?

Get your free consultation now.

Duration of patent protection

The length of time a patent remains in effect can significantly impact an inventor’s or a company’s ability to capitalize on exclusive rights to their creation. 

In the United States, patent protection durations depend on the type of patent granted.

Utility patents limits

These are the most common type of patent, covering new inventions or functional improvements on existing inventions. 

Utility patents issued from applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, continue for 20 years from the application filing date. 

However, for patents that were pending on June 8, 1995, patentees had the option of choosing a term:

  • 20 years from the filing date 
  • 17 years from the issue date—whichever is longer

Design patents limits

Design patents protect the ornamental design of a functional item for 15 years from the date of grant for patents issued from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015. 

For design patents issued from applications (those filed before May 13, 2015) the term from the date of grant is 14 years.

Plant patents limits

These patents are granted to inventors or discoverers of distinct and new varieties of plants. Plant patents last for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.

Can you renew a patent after 20 years?

A common question among patent holders is whether they can renew their patent after it expires. 

For utility and plant patents, the answer is no; there is no legal provision to renew a patent once its term has expired. 

After expiration, the protected invention enters the public domain, allowing anyone to make, use, sell, or import the invention without infringement. 

Design patents, given their different nature and shorter term, also cannot be renewed beyond their initial 15-year period.

Maintaining patent protection

While patents cannot be renewed, maintaining patent protection up to the maximum term requires regular maintenance fees for utility patents. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires these fees at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after the patent is granted. 

Failure to pay maintenance fees can result in the premature expiration of the patent.

Strategic considerations

The fixed term of patent protection highlights the importance of timing in the patent application process. 

Innovators must strategize their filings to maximize the utility of their patents, taking into consideration:

  • The product development lifecycle
  • Market entry
  • The competitive landscape

Additionally, while patents provide a powerful tool for protecting innovation, they should be part of a broader intellectual property strategy that may include:

  • Trademarks
  • Copyright
  • Trade secrets

Stanzione & Associates, PLLC, for patent protection that lasts

Understanding the duration of patent protection and the obligations required to maintain a patent is essential for anyone looking to protect their innovations. 

While patents offer powerful protection, it is not indefinite. Inventors and businesses must plan accordingly to maximize the exclusive rights granted by patents and derive the maximum possible benefit from their intellectual property.

Connect with Stanzione & Associates, PLLC, to discuss your patent strategy. 

The initial consultation is free. It could be the best call you’ve made all day.

Share on LinkedIn
Email this Article
Print this Article

More on Blog