What is a patent?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by a sovereign entity, for a limited period of time. In the United States, the property right granted by a patent is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) generally administers the examination of new patent applications.
There are three types of patents: utility patent, design patent, and plant patent. Each type of patent protects different aspects of an invention and can be useful tools as you grow your business. Each type of patent is discussed in more detail below.
A utility patent is a patent that protects any novel and non-obvious useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof. Novelty and non-obviousness are unique terms that indicate some of the requirements to receive patent protection.
Generally, a utility patent permits its owner to stop others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the filing date of patent application.
Fun fact: Over 90% of all patents issued by the USPTO are utility patents, and this is the patent most people think about when they hear the term “patented.” For example, Apple Inc. has a multitude of utility patents with several related to the famous iPhone.
In US7889139B2, Apple Inc. holds a patent for a handheld electronic device with cable grounding. This patent relates to some functionality of the iPhone.
Without getting too into the weeds, this patent application covers very specific functionality relating to a smartphone. It is important to know that being awarded a patent doesn’t always grant broad coverage that allows the holder to stop everyone doing anything related to that technology. Receiving patent protection is typically very nuanced, as what is ultimately covered and protected is determined by what else might be out there, what else might be protected, and other requirements to get something patented.
A simple way to describe what a utility patent protects is that a utility patent protects how an article is used and functions, and in this case, how the iPhone is used and functions.
In the case of US7889139B2, the utility patent was issued on February 15th, 2011 and is set to expire on December 08, 2028. In some cases determined by the USPTO, the term for a patent may be adjusted for a variety of reasons, such as prosecution delays. It is important to confirm the expiration dates of your patents by checking the first page of your issued patent document (after framing it, of course!).
A design patent is a patent that protects any novel and nonobvious ornamental characteristics of an article, such as configuration or shape. A simple way to describe what a design patent protects is that a design patent protects how an article looks.
A design patent is less commonly used but can be a vital tool in protecting how an article looks. Additionally, one strategy for developing your patent portfolio is applying for both a utility patent and a design patent for the same invention. The utility patent covers the functionality of the invention, and the design patent covers the ornamental design of the invention.
Generally, a design patent permits its owner to stop others from making, using, or selling something that is substantially the same as the design claimed in the patent for a period of 15 years from the date of issuance.
For example, not only does Apple Inc. have utility patents to cover how an iPhone functions, but they also hold several design patents for the overall design of the iPhone.
In USD618677, Apple Inc. holds a design patent for the ornamental design of an electronic device, which looks similar to the famous iPhone design.
In the case of USD618677, it was filed on November 18th, 2008 and is set to expire on June 29th, 2024. In some cases determined by the USPTO, the term for a patent may be adjusted for a variety of reasons, such as prosecution. It is important to confirm the expiration dates of your patents by checking the first page of your issued patent document.
A plant patent covers an asexually reproduced, distinct, and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.
For example, in USPP26186P3, a plant patent was issued for a new and distinct variety of petunia plant named ‘Drama Queen.’
A plant patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application and protects the patent owner’s right to exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts.
While plant patents are the least common type of patents, they can be very beneficial to those in agriculture, horticulture, botanical science, plant pathology, and many areas of industry.
Author: Savanah McLendon.
Still have questions? Let's talk!