What is a patent?

A patent is a grant of a property right by the Government to the inventor "to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention." Patents are granted for a term of 20 years, (14 years for design patents) which may be extended only by a special act of Congress (except for certain pharmaceutical patents). After expiration of the term, the patentee loses rights to the invention.

When to obtain a patent

A valid patent may not be obtained if the invention was in public use or on sale in this country for more than one year prior to the filing of your patent application. Your own use and sale of the invention for more than a year before your application is filed will bar your right to a patent just as effectively as though this use and sale had been done by someone else.

Who may obtain a patent

Patents are granted only to the true inventor. Methods of doing business and printed matter cannot be patented. A patent cannot be obtained on a mere idea or suggestion.

Types of patents

The patent law provides for the granting of patents in three major categories:

Utility Patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. "Process" means a process or method; new industrial or technical processes may be patented. "Manufacture" refers to articles which are made. "Composition of matter" relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds.

Design Patents are granted to any person who has invented a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The appearance of the article is protected.

Plant Patents are granted to any person who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.

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