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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright

What are patents?

Patent Basics

Patent: A property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

There are three different types of patents:

  • Utility: This is the most common type of patent. It may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new, useful, and non obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. 
  • Design: A design patent may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant: A plant patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

There are two types of utility patent applications, provisional and non-provisional.

  • A non-provisional, or regular, application is the more common of the two.

One advantage of provisional applications is that they are less expensive than their regular counterparts. However, there are some important things to consider when filing a provisional application. Provisional applications are good only for 12 months. This means that you must file a corresponding non-provisional application during this time period to take full advantage of the extended 12 month time period or face the expiration of your provisional application.

What is Patentable?

Utility patents are provided for a new, non obvious and useful:

  • Process
  • Machine
  • Article of manufacture
  • Composition of matter
  • Improvement of any of the above

Note: In addition to utility patents, encompassing one of the categories above, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.

What cannot be patented:

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected).

Inventions which are:

  • Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
  • Offensive to public morality

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