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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright



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 making details of the invention public.

There are three 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 begins the process of applying for a patent.
  • Provisional patent applications are unexamined documents used to establish a filing date.  The inventor must file a corresponding non-provisional application before the end of the 12-month life of the provisional application or the value of the provisional filing is lost. 

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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