Discoveries and inventions take years of experimentation, hard work, and money. But a successful discovery or invention will pay back all of your inputs. It is very important to patent your discovery to protect your rights from infringements. The type of discovery requires specific patent protection. There are three types of patents identified under the patent law of the U.S. It is possible to have multiple patent protections for a single discovery. For example, if a person invents an object and is willing to patent both its design and features requires both a design and utility patent.
Now let us get into the kinds of patents to understand which patent is required to apply for a specific discovery or invention.
1. Utility Patent
Utility patents are arguably the most common type of patent sought by inventors. It covers inventions that function uniquely to provide useful results. So if there is any new and useful invention that is not obvious to others can qualify for a utility model. These types of patents revolve around compositions of matter, processes, manufacturers, and machines that are useful, novel, and nonobvious. Inventors and innovators can also obtain utility patents for useful new improvements to existing materials, processes, manufacturers, and machine compositions.
Inventions often fall into more than one of these categories. For example, computer software is typically both a “process” (e.g., the steps it takes to make a computer do something) and a “machine” (a device that takes information from input devices and transfers it to an output device).
No matter how many categories an invention falls into, only one utility model is granted. Among many types of creative works covered by utility models are biological inventions. For example, a new chemical formula, process or procedure, computer hardware, and software, cosmetics, electrical inventions, and food inventions are protected under a utility patent.
Obtaining a utility patent can prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention. This ban is valuable because it allows you to develop an exclusive marketplace for selling your inventions. A utility patent lasts for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.
2. Design Patents
Design in the legal sense means the surface adornment of an object, including its composition and shape. They are outlined by 35 U.S. Code § 171. Design patents are granted for product designs, such as IKEA chairs, Keith Haring wallpaper, and Manolo Blahnik shoes. You can also obtain a patent for the icon design of a computer screen.
To obtain design patent protection, an inventor or innovator must ensure that the design is inseparable from the object. The design and the object must be inseparable, but the design only protects the appearance of the object. If someone intends to protect the structural or functional features of the item, they should file a separate utility model patent application.
It is noteworthy to mention that your design must be decorative or aesthetic, it cannot be functional. After acquiring the design patent, you can prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing that design. You can enforce your design rights for only 14 years after the design rights have been granted.
3. Plant Patents
The least common type of patent is the plant patent, which is granted for the novel, nonobvious, and asexually reproducible plants. This means that the innovators can obtain patent protection for their new and distinctive plants. Plant patents are protected by 35 U.S.C. 161. However, it is unlikely that you will apply for a plant patent unless you are a researcher or agricultural professional.
What innovations are covered by plant patents? Imagine new ways to facilitate asexual reproduction in plants. In other words, imagine how you could propagate plants without the use of genetic seeds to ensure an exact genetic copy of the plants you propagate. Any known asexual reproduction methods that provide true genetic copies of plants can be used. This includes cultivating different plant species to create mutants and hybrids, as well as newly discovered seedlings.
This patent protects the owner by preventing other individuals or companies from manufacturing or profiting from the plant variety for at least 20 years from the filing date.
The Goal Is to Safeguard Your Innovation
Make sure you carefully evaluate all available forms of protection if you go to the effort of writing a patent application. Four different types of patent applications are available under U.S. law. Utilize them as part of your overall strategy to receive a good return on your investment and also get the appropriate protection within your budget.