U.S. Patent Term Lengths

Utility and plant patents are valid for 20 years from the date of application, provided that maintenance fees are paid at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after the date of issue. If a maintenance fee is not paid, the patent expires and the invention becomes public domain. According to the 2010 Four Offices Statistics Report, approximately 50 percent of U.S. patents are maintained for at least 16 years.

Design patents are valid for 14 years from the date of issue. Maintenance fees are not required.

Table 1. Utility and Plant* Patent Terms, 1790-present

Years  Term
1995-present 20 years from date of filing
1861-1995 17 years from date of grant
1836-1861 14 + 7 year extension (optional)
1790-1836 14 years

*Plant patents were first issued in 1931.

Table 2. Design Patent Terms, 1842-present

Year Term
2015-present 15 years from date of grant
1981-2015 14 years from date of grant
1861-1981 3.5, 7 or 14 years
1842-1861 7 years

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