Patents are legal rights granted to the inventor to protect the invention and its functionality. They provide the inventor with exclusive rights to use and sell the patented design or process.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants three types of patents. These include utility patents, design patents and plant patents.
Utility patents are the most common type of patent. They cover new and useful inventions. Inventors may apply for a utility patent if they have invented an improved product, process or machine. Obtaining a utility patent can help protect a medical device, tool, software, or chemical composition.
Design patents are similar to utility patents, except they apply to ornamental features of an invention. You can have a design patent for a new computer icon, font, or star-shaped leaves. Using design patents is easier and cheaper than utility patents.
Design patents do not need to pay maintenance fees. In addition, the patent can last for 14 years from the date of filing. A design patent can be applied for by anyone.
Plant patents can be used to protect asexually reproduced plants. Examples of plant patents include an orange tree that produces double the amount of citrus fruits.
The type of invention that qualifies for a patent depends on the type of patent you are applying for. It is important to have a patent attorney review your application before you begin. If you have any questions about patents, contact me with your questions.