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. Generally, the term of a new utility patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.
The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.
Restated, a patent does not grant one the right to make something, a patent grants one the right to keep others from making something. Thus, a patent is not necessary to market an invention. For individual inventors with limited funds, careful consideration should be given on whether or not to invest funds on the development and marketing of the invention instead of a patent.
Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO. This too can be very expensive.
There are three types of patents:
Utility patents may be 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 may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.