Patenting and USPTO Patent Applications

What is a patent? What kinds of patents are there? What is the USPTO?

Getting a Patent @ USPTO
Getting a Patent @ USPTO. Getty Images/Lisa Manning

Some people may confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities, they are different and serve different purposes. Read What Do I Need? or Understanding Intellectual Property if you need to understand the differences better. Patents and trademarks are both issued by the USPTO.

What Is A Patent?

It is just like a property right for the inventor. All U.S. patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO.
Most patents last for twenty years. The twenty years begins on the date the application for a non-provisional or provisional patent was first filed.

A patent gives you the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling your invention in the United States or importing your invention into the United States. Once a patent is issued, it becomes your responsibility to enforce the patent, the USPTO will not enforce your rights for you. From the USPTO you are only granted rights that are honored within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.

The Three Different Types of Patents Issued By The USPTO

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents a useful process, a machine, an article of manufacture, or a composition of matter. Examples: fiber optics, computer hardware, or medications. Utility patent can be provisional or non-provisional.
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Examples: the look of an athletic shoe, a bicycle helmet, and the Star Wars characters.
  1. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants. Examples: Hybrid tea roses, Silver Queen corn, Better Boy tomatoes
In general, a utility patent protects the way an article is used and works, while a design patent protects the way an article looks.
Both design and utility patents may be obtained on for the article if it is inventive in both its utility and its ornamental appearance.

Utility applications can be provisional or nonprovisional. A provisional application is a very simple patent application which includes only a description of the invention. A nonprovisional application is the full patent application that includes oaths, drawings, and claims. You still have to file a nonprovisional application within one year of filing your provisional application.

Patent Laws - Functions Of The USPTO

Patent law specifies the rules for patents. The USPTO administers all patent laws relating to the granting of patents and various other provisions relating to patents. They will examine your applications and grant patents when applicants are entitled to them. They publish and distribute all patent information including: recording assignments of patents, maintaining search files of U.S. and foreign patents, maintaining a search room for public use in examining issued patents and records, and suppling copies of patents and official records to the public.


Read - Functions Of The USPTO

Next - What Can Be Patented? Novelty And other Conditions For Obtaining A Patent