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What is a Patent?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
- The term of a new patent is generally 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States, but there are special cases.
- It is only valid in the country in which it was issued. So, U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.
- A patent confers the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.
- Once a U.S. patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.
Types of Patents
- Utility patents - (most common) - granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
- Design patents - (protects appearance) - granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture
- Plant patents - granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Credit: United States Patent and Trademark Office (October 2015). General information concerning patents.
What is Patentable?
An invention that is:
- Novel: at least one significant part of the invention must be completely new, never been described, or used for the same purpose, never made public, before the date the application was filed.
- Useful: invention should have a useful purpose
- Non-obvious: invention must be so different from anything that had been used or described before, so that it is not obvious to an expert in that field.
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What Cannot be Patented?
- Abstract ideas
- Laws of nature
- Physical phenomena
- Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (they can be copyrighted)
- Inventions that are:
- Not useful
- Offensive to public morality