In applying for patent licensing it is good to note that there are three types of patents granted by the U.S. Patent Office, http://www.uspto.gov: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. The most common type applied for in patent licensing is a "utility" patent. A utility patent covers what an invention is or how it functions. A utility patent is effective from the date it is issued and lasts for 20 years from the date it was applied for. The second is the design patent which covers the ornamental features of a manufactured item. Design patents cover only how something looks, not how it works. A design patent lasts for 14 years from the date it is issued. Plant patents cover asexually reproduced plants.
Patent licensing generally undergoes patent investigations. There are usually two reasons patent investigations are requested. The first is to find out if a new invention is patentable. The second type of patent investigation is done to avoid infringement problems by finding out if something that you plan to make is covered by an effective patent owned by someone else.
In patent licensing it is important to do patent searches. Patent searches are used to determine if an invention is patentable. Usually before incurring the expense of preparing and filing a patent licensing application, a patentability search is conducted. However, many technical people know "the state of the art" and often recognize that an invention is a significant advance without conducting a patent search. In these cases, a patent licensing application will often be prepared and submitted to the Patent Office without conducting a patentability search. A large volume of anticipated sales of an invention may also justify filing for patent protection without a pre-filing search.
In the U.S. a patent licensing application must be filed within one year of the date the invention is first publicly disclosed or offered for sale. If the patent application is not filed within this one year period, the patent rights are forever dedicated to the public. For this reason, keeping track of disclosures and sales offers is very important.
To obtain a valid patent licensing in many places outside the U.S., a patent licensing application must be filed before any public disclosure of the invention. To preserve the opportunity to obtain foreign patents, a patent application should be filed in the U.S. Patent Office before making any public disclosures. When two people invent the same thing and both file for patent licensing in the U.S., the patent will be awarded to the "first inventor". This is unlike other countries who grant the patent to the first person to file a patent application.