A patent is essentially a bargain between the government and an inventor. In exchange for disclosing his or her invention in complete terms so that others can benefit from and improve on the technology, an inventor receives the patent right. Note that the inventor does not actually receive the right to make, use, or sell the invention – only the right to exclude others from doing so. This can be an important distinction. Consult with professionals like InventHelp if you are confused about something.
Who may apply for a patent?
The United States grants a patent only to the first and true inventor or inventors of the subject matter (an invention may be made jointly, provided that each prospective inventor contributed to its conception).
The applicant(s) must be people, because corporations and other legal entities are not permitted to apply for patents in the U.S. However, if work that led to the invention is performed by an employee in the course of his or her normal duties, it is possible that he or she may be required to assign his or her rights in the patent to the employer (this is between the employer and employee and is not really a matter of patent law).
There are also some extreme circumstances in which a corporation or other interested party may petition the U.S.P.T.O. to allow the patent application to proceed without the agreement of one or more of the inventors. However, this can happen only if the party demonstrates that they have a bona fide interest in the application and that they’ve tried in good faith to obtain the consent of the inventor(s) in question.
What types of patents are there?
There are three basic types of patents.
A utility patent is the most common type, and is what most people think of when they use the word “patent.” A utility patent protects an invention’s structure and the way an invention works.
A design patent protects the ornamental design or appearance of an invention (for example, automotive manufacturers often get design patents to protect how a car looks, and furniture manufacturers may get a design patent to protect how a particular sofa looks).
A plant patent – the rarest of the three types of patents – protects particular varieties of asexually reproduced plants (for example, hybrid roses).
The remainder of this information pertains to utility patents. If you are interested in other types of patents, additional information is available – read more about InventHelp on KansasCityMag.