Types of Patents

A utility patent protects functional aspects of an invention. Utility patents may be granted for any new, useful and non-obvious process, machine, manufactured article, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements to any of these types of inventions. A typical utility patent includes an abstract, a specification, at least one claim, a declaration, a filing fee and usually at least one drawing. The claims are the most critical part of a patent application and should only be written by an experienced patent attorney. The current term for a U.S. utility patent is twenty years from the date on which the patent application was filed.

A design patent is granted to protect the overall appearance of an invention and may be granted for any new and original ornamental design for a manufactured article. The current term for a U.S. design patent is fourteen years from the date of issuance. You should consider a design patent over a utility patent when the appearance of the invention is important. It may be possible to obtain both utility and design patents for different aspects of the same invention.

A Provisional utility patent is used to obtain "patent pending" status for a period up to a year while raising capital or testing markets. It also allows you to obtain a priority date for your invention with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is less expensive than a regular application and does not require claims, an oath or any formal drawings. You must submit a non-provisional application within a year of submitting your provisional application in order to receive the provisional application's filing date.

An International Patent Application simplifies the process of filing international patents and is based on the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that has effect in up to 117 countries. Under the PCT, an inventor can file a single international patent application in one language with one patent office in order to simultaneously seek protection of or an invention in up to 117 countries throughout the world.

A plant patent is granted for the invention or discovery of the distinctive qualities of a plant or asexual reproduction of a new distinct plant. The term for a plant patent is twenty years from the date the application was filed.