What is a patent?

A patent grants an inventor the legal right to exclude others from making, selling, using or importing an invention. It gives an inventor proprietary ownership of their invention. Generally, granted plant and utility patents last 20 years from the application filing date. Design patents last for either 14 or 15 years from their issue date, depending on when they were filed. U.S. patents are effective within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.

There are three types of patents:

1) Utility patents: A patent that is granted to anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;

2) Design patents: A patent that is granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and

3) Plant patents: A patent granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

NonProvisional Patent Applications

A nonprovisional patent application, if successfully prosecuted before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) affords the inventor a patent. This is contrary to a provisional patent application, which by itself cannot result in a patent.

A utility patent allows you the right to legally exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing a product covered by the patent for a period of 20 years from the filing date. In exchange for the legal right to exclude, a patent must fully disclose an enabling embodiment of the invention, which is made public.

A nonprovisional patent application, sometimes just referred to as a utility patent application, has more requirements than a provisional patent application. For instance, a nonprovisional patent application must include legal claims. If and when the application issues as a patent, the legal claims are what gives the patent owner the right to sue.

A nonprovisional patent application, and ultimately a patent, lets investors, marketers, companies, business associates, consumers and the public know that you are serious about protecting your invention. A patent gives the patent owner a proprietary right in their invention. A patent owner may use the proprietary right to license their invention to others or may use it to exclude others from making, using or selling their invention.

Like a provisional patent application, a nonprovisional patent application gives an inventor a filing date and application number with the USPTO. It also allows the inventor to claim “patent pending” while the application is being prosecuted before the USPTO.

Design Patent Applications

In general terms, a utility patent protects the way an invention is used and works while a design patent protects the way an invention looks. Design patents protect the ornamental features of an item, not the functionality. Design patents are often used with things like cars, furniture, and jewelry where the presentation of the invention is important. Modern uses of design patents have extended their application into other areas.

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