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What are the different types of patents?

Patents are legal instruments that grant inventors exclusive rights to their inventions, preventing others from making, using, or selling the invention without permission. Primarily, there are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Each type caters to a different kind of invention and offers unique protection under the law.

What are utility patents?

Utility patents are the most common type of patent. They are granted for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or a new and useful improvement thereof. These patents are intended to cover the functional aspects of an invention. The invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful to be patentable. The term of a utility patent typically is 20 years from the application's filing date.

Utility patents may include machines, chemical formulas, compounds, and functional improvements to existing products. Examples of utility patent inventions include technological gadgets, pharmaceuticals, electrical appliances, and software algorithms.

What are design patents?

Design patents are granted for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Unlike utility patents, design patents do not protect the functional aspects of an object but rather the ornamental elements of its appearance. The design must be novel, non-obvious, and purely ornamental. The term of a design patent is 15 years from the patent's grant date.

Design patents encompass the aesthetic aspects of products, including the shape, surface ornamentation, and configuration. For example, design pattern inventions may include unique product shapes, graphical user interfaces, and distinct packaging.

What are plant patents?

Plant patents are a unique category of intellectual property rights. They are granted for inventing or discovering and asexually reproducing any distinct and new variety of plant. The plant must be novel, distinct, and not obvious and must have been asexually reproduced. The term of a plant patent is 20 years from the filing date. 

Plant patents cover a wide range of new plant species, including genetically modified plants, hybrid plants, and newly discovered seedlings. For example, plant patent inventions may include new varieties of orchids, roses, almonds, and genetically engineered crops.

Do you need to file a patent application?

Understanding the different types of patents is essential for inventors and businesses to protect their intellectual property effectively. While utility patents protect functional inventions, design patents safeguard the ornamental aspects, and plant patents cover new plant varieties. Depending on the nature of the invention, the correct type of patent can provide exclusive rights and competitive advantages in the market. By securing a patent, inventors can protect their innovations and potentially reap significant rewards from their intellectual creativity.

To discuss what type of patent may be appropriate for you and your business, contact TCP Law at or John Laurence by phone at 917-612-1059.


John Laurence TCP Law, Trademark Patent Copyright Lawyer

TCP Law focuses on helping individuals and businesses develop, secure, and enforce their intellectual property rights.

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