A utility patent is granted for a process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof.
Protection: This type of patent protects the invention's structural or functional features.
The Application: A utility patent application must describe the invention so that one skilled in the technology can make and use it. It must also include claims which define the invention in words.
Duration: A utility patent is awarded 20 years from the date of filing. Filing a provisional patent application first adds another year to the life of the utility patent.
A provisional patent application allows the inventor one year in which to complete the non-provisional patent application paperwork. The description of the invention and drawings must be stated in the provisional application and should be very similar to those submitted in the non-provisional patent application to establish the earlier filing date that a provisional patent application provides.
This kind of application allows for the use of the phrase "patent pending" on a manufactured item and allows for the early registration filing date. However, if the non-provisional patent application is not filed within the 1-year timeframe, the inventor loses the benefit of the earlier filing date. Note: Foreign patent applications do not have the one year grace period of a provisional patent application, so a patent application must be filed before any enabling disclosure of the invention is made public. If an inventor plans to file in another country, s/he might want to avoid the provisional patent.
A design patent protects the ornamental design or aesthetic appearance of an article of manufacture.
Protection: This type of patent protects the appearance of the invention, not its structure or utilitarian features.
The Application: A design patent application will only have one claim that protects the ornamental design of an invention.
Duration: A design patent is awarded 15 years from the date of filing.
*An inventor can file for both a utility and a design patent on the same invention.
A plant patent is granted on any distinct and new variety of an asexually reproduced plant, including cultivated mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.
Duration: A utility patent is awarded 20 years from the date of filing.
Hosta Plant Named "Old Glory" - US PP12,503
Scanned image courtesy of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Library at the University of Maryland.