What is a Patent?
Written by Jesson & Rains attorney, Kelly Rains Jesson
This is the third installment out of our intellectual property series. The fourth and final article will be about protecting trade secrets and confidential information using contracts.
A patent is a federally-issued form of intellectual property protection granted to inventors of unique designs and processes. The patent prevents other individuals and companies from making or selling the invention for 14 to 20 years. An inventor must apply for a patent within one year of publicly disclosing the invention. A patent is public record information, so while the invention is protected, it is not secret.
The two main types of patents are utility patents and design patents. A utility patent is a machine, process, or component part thereof used to make a product. A design patent is the unique design of the product itself. The design patent covers only the appearance of the product and not the structural or functional features (that would be a utility patent). An example of a design patent is a glass soda bottle. A design patent lasts for fourteen years.
A utility patent is the most common type of patent. In addition to machines, processes, and component parts, utility patents are also issued for inventors of improved existing patents. The improvement must be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the same area of technology related to the invention. For example, a person cannot simply change the color of a machine and get approved for a new patent.
Utility patents must be useful, serve a legal purpose, and be “novel.” If a substantially similar process or product has been marketed in the past year, the application will be rejected. It must be man-made—naturally occurring things cannot be patented. Also, the product or process must actually work. Patents will not be issued for ideas, theories, and inventions that do not work. A utility patent lasts for twenty years.
Unlike copyrights and trademarks, there are no state versions of patents (only federal) and there is no common law protection. You do not get a patent simply by inventing something—you must apply and be granted a patent by the federal government.
If you have any questions about protecting your intellectual property, give Jesson & Rains a call!
7/11/2019 10:20:09 pm
As you said here, there are two main types of patents. If I were to get one, it would probably be for a design patent. I'm thinking about applying for one for something I made but I don't know if I should or not. Do you think it would be a good idea to talk to someone who specializes in them?
7/12/2019 03:06:23 pm
Absolutely! We can recommend a few if you want to shoot us an email: email@example.com
10/4/2022 08:47:18 pm
You make a great point about improving existing patients. My wife wants to file for a patent. Hopefully, she can get a utility patent.
12/6/2022 05:21:09 pm
Thank you for you comment! Good luck!
10/17/2022 12:20:01 pm
My friend wants to make sure that he gets his patent put together properly, but he's not sure how to go about it. It makes sense that he might want to work with a lawyer to ensure that the patent is properly filed.
12/6/2022 05:22:50 pm
That is correct! Thanks for the comment.
10/17/2022 12:20:28 pm
Not long ago, I talked with one of my friends about their latest project, and it looks like he'd be working on something very interesting for humankind. I liked what you explained about getting a patent for your work and how the federal government is who approves it, so I'll make sure my friends know about this now. Thank you for explaining the different types of patents and how to get one.
12/6/2022 05:24:47 pm
You're very welcome. Thank you so much for the comment! That is wonderful that you are educating your friends as well!
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Kelly Rains Jesson