Patents are a form of intellectual property protection that can be used to protect inventions, processes, and other creations. There are three main types of patents: utility, design, and plant patents. Each type of patent offers different levels of protection and has different requirements for filing. Utility patents are the most common type of patent and can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of materials, or any new and useful improvement thereto.
Utility patents protect the function of a composition, a machine or a process. A provisional patent gives inventors an additional year to decide if and how to file a utility patent. This is just one example of how an inventor can use multiple patent applications to mitigate risk, cover a bet, or extend patent protection. Design patents protect the distinctive look of an invention. They are used to protect the ornamental design of an item, such as the shape or color of a product.
Design patents are often used in combination with utility patents to provide comprehensive protection for an invention. Plant patents are used to protect new varieties of plants. Plant patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. In order to obtain a patent, inventors must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO must protect the inventor who files a patent, as well as any other person who has filed a similar patent. In other words, even if you created an invention first, if someone else applies for a patent on the same invention before you, you will get the patent. The first step in applying for a patent is to verify that there are no longer any patents covering your idea.
Once the government grants a patent, the owner can enforce it by filing a patent infringement action (lawsuit) against anyone who manufactures, uses or sells the invention without the permission of the patent owner. Filing both a utility patent and a design patent application could prove beneficial if your invention is unique in its structure and function, as well as being a one-of-a-kind design. Find out how to file a patent application, if you need an attorney or can do it yourself, and what it means to have a patent pending. Patents are among the world's most valuable assets. Unlike other forms of intellectual property protection, they have numerous formal requirements and can be very expensive to obtain. For new inventors, obtaining a utility patent can be overwhelming.
However, if you go step by step, you can also obtain a patent for your invention.