Introduction to Patents



A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by a governmental intellectual property office, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The right conferred by a US patent grant is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling an invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States. A patent does not grant the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import anything. Rather, a patent grants the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

Once a US patent is granted, the patent may be enforced through lawsuits filed in US federal courts. US patents are enforceable only within the United States and its territories and possessions.

There are three types of US patents:

  1. Utility patents protect a new and useful processes, machines, article of manufactures, or compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  2. Design patents protect new, original, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture.
  3. Plant patents protect distinct and new varieties of plants that are asexually reproduced.

Subject to the payment of maintenance fees, the term of a utility patent is 20 years from the date on which the patent application was filed in the USPTO or, in some cases, 20 years from the date an earlier related application was filed. The lifetime of a design patent is 15 years from the date the patent is granted, and no maintenance fees are required. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.

Property Rights for Inventors

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