Utility patents are by far the most common type of patent issued in the United States. To date, the USPTO has granted more than 11 million of these invention patents. Utility patents protect the function of a composition, machine, or process, and are issued for new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter or improvements. Examples of inventions protected by utility patents include computer programs, investment strategies, medical equipment, tools, chemical compositions, genetically modified forms of life and improvements.
Design patents are another type of patent that protect the decorative appearance of an item. A phytosanitary patent protects a new or different variety of a plant. Lastly, a provisional patent gives inventors one more year to decide whether and how to file a utility 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.
When evaluating your options for filing a patent application, keep in mind that it has consequences. At that time, its application is a technique prior to all future inventions. Be sure to archive patents strategically to avoid stumbling upon your own inventions. Utility patents are among the world's most valuable assets and can be very expensive to obtain.
For new inventors, obtaining a useful patent can be overwhelming. However, if you go step by step, you can also receive a patent issued for your invention. Did you know that you can file a provisional patent application to get more time to complete the patent process? Learn more about interim patents, which are used to “reserve” a spot in line for your patent application. Whether your company is known for its innovative aesthetic designs or for its innovative practical technology, the ideas and inventions that make your company unique provide a competitive advantage that keeps you ahead of the curve.
The different types of patents serve as primary protection for these technologies, designs and inventions, ensuring that no one else can copy your ideas without permission. In the United States, there are three different types of patents that offer intellectual property protections: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. A utility patent is the most common type of patent filed in the U. S., and it can protect any unique and novel product, process, machine or composition of material as well as significant new improvements to it.
The protection of a utility patent lasts 20 years. A design patent protects the aesthetic design of a product and lasts 14 years while a phytosanitary patent can protect any different plant variety and lasts 20 years. In many cases, the right patent for your needs seems obvious but sometimes it's less clear. An experienced patent attorney can guide you to the best patent choice for your needs.
In cases where an early filing date may be useful, you may consider filing a provisional patent. Technically, a provisional patent is not a type of patent but instead it's a preliminary patent application that allows you to preserve your intellectual property rights while you finish the paperwork to apply for one of the different types of non-provisional patents. However, remember that only the non-provisional patent application offers you full patent protection; the provisional patent application only extends the protections that are finally granted once a full patent is approved until the time the provisional application is filed. The patent only provides protection within the United States so if you plan to market your invention abroad it is sometimes wise to also apply for a foreign patent.
In general, most countries offer the same three different types of patents as those offered in the U. S. An experienced international patent attorney will be able to help you decide if this additional step is necessary and can help you complete the process of applying for.