What is a patent?

There are 4 areas of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. We will work our way through the logistics of each, so that you understand the differences and similarities and can figure out which area is best suited for your needs. So let’s begin with patents.

Patents are probably the most talked about, most focused on area of intellectual property. But, what exactly is a patent? A patent is a federally granted and recognized right to exclude others from making and using your invention without your consent. Essentially the federal government grants the patent holder a limited monopoly right in exchange for information. The federal government requires the patent applicant to describe in detail exactly what the invention is and the best way to make and/or use the invention.

There are several types of patents; utility, design, and plant. The utility patent is the most common. In 2015, the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) received 629.647 patent applications – of those 589,410, or roughly 93.6%, were utility applications. Design applications made up 6.2%, and plant applications made up the remaining 0.2%.

The requirements for a utility patent are that it must be useful, novel/new, nonobvious, and include a full disclosure on how to make and use the invention. Each of these requirements will be discussed more in depth in a later blog post, so stay tuned for that information! A utility patent protects an invention that has some sort of use whether that use is something like holding your hair out of your face (a hair-tie or barrette) or to provide entertainment (such as a television or even a slot machine) and anything in between. A utility patent has a length of protection of 20 years from the filing date.

A design patent, on the other hand, only has a length of protection of 14-15 years (depending on when the application was filed). A design patent protects the aesthetic aspects of an article of manufacture. For example, the specific design of a sofa, or the aesthetic aspects of a piece of jewelry. Finally, a plant patent has a length of 20 years – just like a utility patent. The requirements of a plant patent include: it must be a new plant that can be asexually reproduced, must not be a tuber (essentially an underground stem of a plant – the most commonly known type is a potato). Additionally, though not technically required by the USPTO, but required in actual practice are colored drawings of the plant.

More about drawings will be discussed in the upcoming blog post about the patent application process. Until then, be kind and promote progress – don’t stifle it.www.hurchallalaw.com