What Are The 3 Types of Patents?

Intellectual Property Lawyer in Philadelphia, PA Explains the 3 Types of Patents and How They Can Help You

patent is a type of intellectual property right that protects a person’s invention for a determined period of time against others who may want to try to make, use, or sell the invention. Nearly everything that you use on a daily basis has been patented at one time or another. A good example is medications. There are brand-name drugs and generic drugs. Some brand-name drugs are still under patent protection, prohibiting others from copying the formula to make the (cheaper but identical) generic drugs. But our intellectual property lawyer in Philadelphia, PA knows that this is just one example of a patent.

There are three fairly wide-sweeping types of patents in the United States: utility patents; design patents; and plant patents. All patents are governed by the same Act: the U.S. Patent Act. Patents are reviewed and granted or denied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

If you have an invention or material and substantial improvement to an existing invention, you may want to consider a patent to protect your intellectual property rights. The truth is that this can be a long and complicated process, where even a slight error could allow another person to swoop in and essentially steal your idea. Do not let this happen to you. Learn how the experienced intellectual property attorneys in Philadelphia, PA at Paul & Paul can help protect your invention and your rights both in the United States and around the globe.

What Type of Patent Do You Need?

The first and most important inquiry is determining what type of patent you need. If you file for the wrong type of patent, an examiner may deny your claim and cost you time and money in the process. The three types of patents include the following:

Utility Patents

Utility patents make up the majority of patents in the U.S. and are most common. These are extensive and technical documents that advise the public on how to use new or useful machines, processes, matter compositions, or systems. A utility patent can also be granted to improvements to how items and aspects operate if they are also new and useful. In simple terms, utility patents protect how something operates or works.

While sometimes called an “improvement patent,” any type of improvement to an existing invention is really just a type of utility patent.

Design Patents

Design patents, while not as widely utilized as utility patents, provide protection to designers in a crucial way. Design patents protect ornamental, non-functional designs on useful items, such as the shape of an item, the design of clothing, or a touchscreen, for example. The design patent document is almost fully comprised of the design itself, with accompanying drawings. Because of this, it is well-known that design patents are hard to search and find, as there are little to no words contained in them.

If an invention contains both utility and design in its creation, in other words, protection for how it works and looks, one may file for both utility and design patents.

Plant Patents/Seed Patents

A plant patent is just that: a patent that protects plants or seeds. A plant patent protects new plants that have been created by cuttings, layering, budding, grafting, inarching, or other non-sexual means. This does not include genetically modified organisms. In other words, if a person has cultivated a new variation of a plant or a distinctive one, they may be provided protection under the Patent Act. An example of this would be if a new variety of an apple was reproduced asexually and had new, distinct, and highly desirable characteristics.

How Does One Obtain a Patent?

As mentioned, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has jurisdiction over whether a utility, design or plant patent is granted. The first step for a patent seeker would be to search if such an invention already exists. This can be done by either searching the USPTO guide on patent searches, as well as by searching Google’s Patent Search.

Once it is established that the invention is new and useful, it is time to file your application with the USPTO. This includes supplying a written document containing the specifics of your utility, or specific drawings and details. You also need to provide an oath or declaration, stating that you are the first inventor. Finally, you must pay associated fees, which can change annually.

Get Help From Our Patent Attorneys in Philadelphia, PA

The patent process is inherently a time-consuming and expensive process. Many inventors think that they can save money by not hiring a patent lawyer. This is a huge mistake. Not only can it only increase the amount of time it will take to get a patent, but it could greatly increase the filing fees and other expenses to correct avoidable mistakes. Further, an improper patent with mistakes or a patent that is not thorough enough could still allow a third party to come in and steal your idea.

Do not let this happen. Ask the experienced patent attorneys at Paul & Paul in Philadelphia, PA how we can help protect your invention. Schedule your appointment with our team by dialing (866) 201-8191 or using our convenient and easy-to-use contact us box available here.


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