Patent is an exclusive right to a product or a process that generally provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.
A patent is the granting of a property right by a sovereign authority to an inventor. This grant provides the inventor exclusive rights to the patented process, design, or invention for a designated period in exchange for a comprehensive disclosure of the invention. They are a form of incorporeal right.
Government agencies typically handle and approve applications for patents. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is part of the Department of Commerce, handles applications and grants approvals.
There are three types of patents available in the United States: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Each has its own specifications and durations.
Utility patents, or patents for invention, issue legal protection to people who invent a new and useful process, an article of manufacture, a machine, or a composition of matter. Utility patents are the most common type of patent, with more than 90% of patents issued by the U.S. government belonging to this category.2 A utility patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing as long as maintenance fees are paid. Maintenance fees are surcharges applied to utility patent applications filed after December 12, 1980.
Design patents are patents issued for original, new, and ornamental designs for manufactured products. Design patents protect the design or look of something. They require the invention to which the design belongs to be original and useful. Design patents last for 15 years for applications filed after May 13, 2015. For applications filed before May 13, 2015, patents last for 14 years from the date of the filing. Maintenance fees do not apply to design patents.
Plant patents go to anyone who produces, discovers, and invents a new kind of plant capable of reproduction. These patents are granted for 20 years from the date of filing and no maintenance fees apply.