A patent can protect a design, idea or invention. It gives you exclusive rights and prevents others from creating the same thing and profiting off of your intellectual property.
To secure a patent, you must submit an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You do not secure the patent and the protection it offers until the USPTO approves your patent.
When you sell something for which you have a patent, you must place your patent number with the word “patent” on the product to secure that protection. If you fail to label it properly, you may not be able to recover damages. At a minimum, it can complicate any claims you want to make for infringement.
You should note that prior to receiving your patent while waiting for the application approval, you do not have any protection. Even if you put patent pending on a product, you have no protection until the USPTO records the patent in the legal record.
It is important to be cautious with selling until you secure patent protection. If someone were to use your idea prior to securing the patent, it can lead to legal issues that could be costly to you.
The expiration of your patent removes all exclusive rights you have. You also cannot go after anyone for infringing on your patent. The type of patent you get will determine how long you will hold the patent.
Patents generally last for up to 20 years, but during this time, you must maintain it by paying fees. If you fail to pay the fees, the patent will expire.