Patents are a form of intellectual property that give an inventor or assignee an exclusive right over an invention for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention.


Main Article: Intellectual Property

Patents are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through the patent application process. They give an inventor the exclusive right to make, use, or offer for sale their invention for a limited period of time. In order to file for a patent, the inventor must make a detailed public disclosure of the invention. Patents filed after June 8, 1995 are granted for a period of 20 years.

Types of patents

  • Utility Patents protect the functional features of an invention. This is the most common type of patent, and generally the type of patent one would describe as an "invention." Utility patents are granted for inventions that discover any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. A utility patent can also be granted for an improvement on a previously existing product. Utility patents can provide broader patent protection because they allow the inventor to protect the inventive concept, not just a single one variation.
  • Design Patents are granted for a new and original ornamental appearance of an article. An ornamental appearance can be a pattern on the face of an item, the shape of the item, or any other aspect of the invention that isn’t dictated by it’s function. Design patents only protect the appearance of the invention, not the functional features. This is a key difference between design patents and utility patents. Design patents provide less protection than utility patents because competitors can easily design around the patent by changing the overall look of their competing product.
  • Plant Patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Utility patent or design patent?

If you invention has a unique structure or function and a unique ornamental design then you should consider filing a utility patent and a design patent.

Patent Search

Main guide: Patent Search

All inventors are strongly advised to do a patent search on their invention prior to investing significant time and resources.

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