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What is a Patent?

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to an inventor for a limited period, usually 14 to 20 years. In exchange for this monopoly, the inventor must publicly disclose the details of the invention. This way, society benefits from the shared knowledge, while the inventor enjoys protection against others copying, selling, or using the invention without permission.

What Types of Patents are There?

There are primarily three different types of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office:

  1. Utility patent. This is issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof. The term is 20 years. This is the most common type of patent; 
  2. Design Patent. This is issued for a new, original, and ornamental design of an item. The term is 14 years; and 
  3. Plant Patent. This is issued for a for a new and distinct, invented, or discovered asexually reproduced plant. The term is 20 years.

Why Consider Filing a Patent?

  1. Protection: Once granted, a patent provides you the right to prevent others from making, selling, or using your invention without your consent. This protection can be crucial if you want to profit from your idea or prevent copycats. Put differently, a patent doesn’t really give you the right to do anything; rather, it gives you the right to exclude and prevent others from doing it. 
  2. Business Advantage: Having a patent can give your business a competitive edge. It can increase the value of your company, attract sophisticated investors—who like to see protectible intellectual property like patents—and potentially provide revenue through licensing for a considerable period of time.
  3. Recognition: A patent recognizes you as the official inventor of a unique idea, giving you formal acknowledgment for your creativity and innovation. In other words: Bragging rights!

Key Points to Remember Before Filing:

  1. Not Everything Can Be Patented: Not all ideas or discoveries qualify for a patent. Typically, patents are granted for new, non-obvious, and useful inventions. This could be a product, a process, a machine, or even a new plant variety. These criteria can be difficult—sometimes very difficult—to establish.
  2. Research First: Before filing, ensure that your invention hasn’t already been patented. Conducting a patent search and analysis can save you a great deal of time and money down the road.
  3. Detailed Description Required: Your patent application must provide a clear and complete description of the invention. This helps the patent office and the public understand what you’ve invented.
  4. Time-sensitive: The patent world operates largely on a “first-to-file” basis. This means that if two inventors come up with a similar invention, the one who files the patent application first usually has the rights. So, if you believe you have a patentable idea, it’s essential to act promptly or your rights could be lost.
  5. Seek Legal Help: The patent filing process can be complex. Many inventors opt for assistance from patent attorneys who have experience in the particular field of the invention to ensure their application is complete and has the best chance of approval.


If you believe that you’ve created something new and valuable, obtaining a patent might be the right move to protect and capitalize on your invention. Your ideas are valuable and a patent can be a powerful tool to safeguard and potentially profit from them for years to come.


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