Types of Patents

The economic foundation of any country is built upon the discovery and pioneering of technological advancements. To foster this innovative spirit of our country, to ensure future advancements, the government has created different types of patents that will protect the intellectual property of individuals while making new discoveries made known to the public. By creating these different types of patents, the government has made it possible for individuals to claim ownership on vast range of groundbreaking ideas. However, a person cannot obtain a patent base merely on an idea alone. Instead, as dictated by federal laws, a person can only obtain a patent if he or she “invents or discovers a new or useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement”. Currently, there are only three types of patents that an inventor can apply for. These types of patents are utility, design, and plant patents.

A utility patent is a patent that is granted only to inventions that performs a useful function. The majority of patents that are requested and granted by the government are this type of patent. In fact, when people use the term “patent” in general, they often refer to a utility patent. If granted a utility patent, owners will have exclusive rights over the invention for a time period up to 20 years after the filing date of the patent application. The second type of patent, a design patent, is given to those who invent an original ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Examples of these types of patents include but are not limited to designs for computer icons, furniture, and packaging containers. In comparison to the other types of patents, design patents are easy to obtain but are not as effective in protecting your intellectual design. However, design patents, which last only for 14 years, can be a useful tool nonetheless to protect your design. The last type of design is a plant patent. A plant patent is given to those who either discovers or invents and asexually reproduces a distinctive and original type of plant. Similar to the utility patent, a plant patent last for a period of 20 years from the date of filing the application.

Regardless of which of the three types of patents one wishes to obtain, the process of getting a patent is anything but effortless. Due to the fact that there are numerous laws and procedures that oversee the patent process, some may find it difficult to try to patent their work. For this reason, many individuals as well as business will employ a patent attorney or agent. A patent attorney or agent is a person that is knowledgeable of the patent laws and can represent clients throughout the entire patent process.