What is a Patent and What are the Different Types?

A patent is a right granted to an inventor that allows them to exclude everyone else from manufacturing, using, or selling their invention for 20 years. There are three main types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents are issued for novel and useful inventions. This type of patent protects the function of a composition, machine, or process.

Design patents protect the decorative appearance of an item, but not its structural or functional characteristics. Plant patents protect a new or different variety of a plant. Inventors can also use provisional patent applications to give themselves an additional year to decide whether and how to file a useful patent. This is just one example of how an inventor can use multiple patent applications to mitigate risk, hedge a bet, or expand patent protection.

For example, John could apply for a utility patent on his egg mixer invention and also simultaneously apply for a design patent on the way the cover is designed to open and expose mini solar panels. It's important to note that many experts suggest not rushing to apply for patent protection as soon as an invention is created. Skilled inventors can use different types of patent applications to secure the rights they need to protect their inventions. The Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) system allows patent offices to securely share search and examination documentation related to patent applications, facilitating a more effective and efficient international examination process.

Patent landscape reports describe the patent status for a specific technology in a given geographical area. The International Patent Classification (IPC) is used to classify patents and utility models according to the different areas of technology to which they relate.

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