Patents are a form of intellectual property that give inventors the exclusive right to create or use their invention for a specified period of time. The most common types of patents include utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents, also known as “invention patents”, are the most common type of patent and protect processes, compositions of matter, machines, and manufactures that are new and useful. Design patents protect the appearance of a product, while plant patents protect new species of plants that reproduce asexually.
In order to obtain a patent, an application must be filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application should include a description and claim of the invention or discovery, drawings, an oath or statement, and fees. Utility patents offer extensive protection against potentially competing inventions, but can take 2 to 3 years to receive. Design patents are less expensive and easier to obtain than utility patents and offer protection for 14 years from the date the patent was granted.
Plant patents do not require maintenance fee payments and offer protection for 20 years from the date the patent application is filed. In some circumstances, the terms of the patent may be expanded. The USPTO also issues legal invention records that offer limited protection to prevent others from patenting a particular invention, design, or plant. Additionally, the USPTO corrects errors in patents that have already been issued by reissuing patents, which may alter the scope of patent protection.
If you have created a new invention and are interested in protecting your rights to it with a patent, it is important to understand the different types of patents available and how to apply for them. For more information on the different types of patents or for help filing a patent application, contact a local patent attorney. For more information and resources related to this topic, as well as other types of intellectual property, you can visit the Intellectual Property section of FindLaw.