What Is a Utility Patent?

Patents are incredibly important in the United States and internationally. A patent protects the inventors of new items by preventing others from making, using, or selling the invention for a specified amount of time. There are three main types of patents available in the United States – utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Here, we want to delve into the specifics of what a utility patent is.

The Basics of a Utility Patent

A utility patent is the most common type of patent requested in the United States. In fact, this is typically what most people think of when they hear the word patent. A utility patent is available for inventions and discoveries that are considered to be new, useful, and non-obvious. A utility patent can be obtained for a machine, a manufacture, a composition of matter, or a process.

  • A machine is something we usually consider to be a machine, such as a lawnmower or a computer.
  • A manufacture refers to goods that are made or manufactured.
  • A composition of matter refers to chemical compounds, including new chemical compounds as well as mixtures of ingredients.
  • A process is a method, act, or way of doing something, usually related to technical or industrial processes.

How Does a Utility Patent Differ From a Design Patent?

Patent seekers often confused utility patents with design patents. A brief description of the difference between the two is that a utility patent provides the patent seeker with protection related to how the object works or is used. However, a design patent protects only the way the object looks.

It is entirely possible for a person to obtain both a utility patent and a design patent for a new invention, though the two types of patents will provide differing protections. It is crucial that you obtain the correct patents in order to fully protect any invention you have.

Filling Out a Utility Patent Application

The person seeking a utility patent will need to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When you go to the USPTO website, you will see that there are two types of applications – a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application.

A provisional patent application will be useful if you are not quite finished designing your invention. A provisional patent is granted for one year and prevents anybody else from taking the invention or discovery in the meantime. A non-provisional patent application for a utility patent officially starts the process for the USPTO to determine whether or not your discovery or invention is eligible for patent protection.

How Long Does a Utility Patent Last?

In the United States, a utility patent is generally granted for 20 years from the date the patent application is filed. Determining the term of a patent can be complicated if you have more than one patent filing date and it is important for any inventor to realize that there are periodic fees that must be paid in order to maintain the enforceability of the patent.

Work With an Attorney for Help With Your Patent

If you or somebody you care about has created a new machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or process, you need to seek a patent as soon as possible. We strongly recommend that you work with an Orange County intellectual property lawyer at Callahan & Blaine who has experience handling patent applications. The application process for a utility patent can become incredibly technical, but when you have an attorney with resources and experience by your side, you can be sure that the application will be handled appropriately.