Patenting your unique invention is one of the most effective ways to maintain control over your intellectual property. There are three basic types of patentsthat can be applied for with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and each corresponds to a different type of intellectual property.

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Utility Patents

By far the most common patent issued by the USPTO, it is estimated that nine in 10 patent applications are for utility patents. A utility patent is intended to protect new and useful inventions, such as a process, a machine, a method of manufacture, a composition of matter or a similarly new and equally useful improvement of an existing invention. This category is extremely broad. Issued patents have a term of 20 years, provided the USPTO maintenance fees are paid on time.

Design Patents

Intended for new, original and ornamental designs that can be used on goods, design patents likewise exclude parties other than the owner from using, making or selling the design. The patent is granted for a term of 14 years, and unlike the utility patent, requires no maintenance fees to be upheld.

Plant Patents

This interesting patent is issued for new, distinct variations of plants invented or discovered through cultivation, mutation, hybridization or any other artificial process. The same exclusive rights are granted as with the other patents. However, while the term lasts for 20 years, there is no need to pay maintenance fees for the patent.

Special Patents

The USPTO also issues two special types of patents. The reissue patent is issued to correct an error in a pre-existing patent. A defensive publication is the exact opposite of a patent, as it is used to publicize patentable information in a way that prevents others from patenting the invention, design or plant. In essence, it ensures the data remains accessible with no one establishing a monopoly on it.

If you have a question about getting a patent, we can help you ask a lawyer.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.