A patent is a right given to an inventor or creator by the government, allowing him or her to exclude others from selling, producing or using the invention for a specific period of time. The patent process is designed to encourage inventors to create products that are useful to society. In America, Congress holds the power to grant patents (this is constitutional provision) and create rules and statutes for owners and infringers. Read the article below to learn how patents impact businesses and society.
Definition and Classification of Patents
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues three different types of patents: utility, design and plant patents. Utility patents are the most common, and they are usually bestowed to new processes, machines and chemicals. Design patents exist to protect the appearance of a manufactured object, such as the shape of a box or electronic device. Plant patents are granted for the creation of plants and flowers, including hybrids. This may seem strange to many people, but new plants can be created by crossing different species of older plants. When this happens, the creator of the new plant can choose to patent his or her new species.
In order for an invention to qualify for a patent, it must be “novel” and “non-obvious.” An invention is classified as novel if it is different from similar inventions in more than one of its parts. In addition, it must not have been used, sold or patented by another inventor within a year of the date the patent application was filed. It is considered “non-obvious” if someone who is experienced in the field of invention believes the invention to be unexpected or surprising.
When applying for a patent, the inventor must also prove that the invention is useful. In short, it must be beneficial to society and operable. Useful inventions can only qualify for a patent if they fall into one of five unique categories:
- Machine – A device that utilizes energy in order to get work done
- Process – A method or technique for treating material to produce physical change in the quality or character of the material (usually an industrial or technical process)
- Manufacture – A process in which an article is made by the industry or art of people
- Composition of Matter – A new mixture of ingredients or a new chemical compound
- Improvement – An addition or alteration of a known machine, process, manufacture, or composition of matter
Things That Cannot Be Patented
Not every invention is eligible to receive a patent. For example, naturally occurring substances or laws of nature, even if they are newly discovered, are not eligible. Abstract concepts, fundamental truths, methods of calculations, and mathematical formulas are also ineligible for patenting. An inventor cannot receive a patent simply for suggesting an idea unless he or she creates a concrete means of implementing the idea. A patent will never be granted for unsafe pharmaceutical products or inventions that do not serve a legal purpose. This statute exists to safeguard the health and well-being of the general public.
Unlike copyrights, which are immediately granted after the creation of a work, all patents require an application. The creator is also required to apply within a year of publicly announcing the invention. Before applying for a patent, it is wise for an inventor to perform a preliminary patent search to ensure that the invention has not been patented before.
Full Protection for Your Invention
Patents are an important part of the invention process and a key element when growing a business in the high-tech space. If you are thinking about inventing a new product, you should certainly consider applying. Patents will protect you and your invention from being copied by another person or business. Without one, your invention will have no legal rights.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.