How Long Do Patents Last?

Patents are like dairy products, eventually they both expire. Granted, patents last a lot longer than dairy products, but just like dairy different kinds of patents have different expiration dates.

Utility and Plant

In the United States utility and plant patents (which make up the majority of patents) will last 20 years, starting from the date of filing. However, this doesn’t mean once you get the patent you can forget about the patent office for the next 20 years. In order to maintain your patent over 20 years you need to pay maintenance fees. These fees are due 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years after the patent is issued.

There’s really no rhyme or reason the fees are due on such a random schedule. In fact, most European countries require maintenance fees every year, but the USPTO decided to change it up a bit.

If you fail to pay these fees on time, the patent will expire and you will lose the protection you once had. Sometimes, patent owners willingly stop paying the maintenance fees because they cost more than the patent is worth (the longer you hold the patent, the more the maintenance fees cost).

Design Patents

A design patent will last 14 years. Maintenance fees are not required for design patents.

What Happens After a Patent Expires?

Once a patent has reached the end of its life it goes to public domain. If it goes to public domain, anyone can use it and sell it without permission from the owner.

The patent lawyers at Parsons & Goltry can help you get the patent protection you need. If you have any questions call today for a consultation.

Client Approved


"Our company has worked with a number of patent attorneys and were so pleased when we began working with Parsons & Goltry nearly a decade ago. Mike Goltry's knowledge and attention to detail has enabled us to have numerous products patented and trademarks registered. We highly recommend this Law Firm."

- Sharon K.


"Michael Goltry is the most professional, honest and effective patent attorney whom I ever met in my 40 year professional engineering career. I started to work with him over 20 years ago and plan to work indefinitely."

- Zoltan Kemeny, PhD, Struct. Eng.


"Mr. Goltry took a provisional patent that we'd filed ourselves, and quickly and professionally turned our innovation into U.S. and foreign applications. His [patent claims] were a thing of beauty, and I was amazed by how deftly he countered the inevitable office actions. His language held up, and the U.S. Patent just issued. He was easy and efficient to work with, and his fees were remarkably reasonable. We're not planning to go anywhere else, ever."

- Ski Milburn, CEO, Victori, LLC


"I applied for a patent through Parsons & Goltry. After being on the docket for 2 years at the USPTO, I received notification that my patent request had been denied. Michael Goltry contacted me immediately to review my options. After I informed him of my decision to move forward, he filed a response to the USPTO. In his response he got the examiner to fully understand the claims in the patent application and the "denied" decision was reversed. I was able to secure and receive a "patent granted" decision. Thank you, Michael Goltry."

- Kathy H., Inventor


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