A patent is an exclusive right that protects an inventor’s invention from being manufactured, copied, or used by anyone else unless he/she gives his/her permission. It is, in fact, a temporary monopoly which is granted to the inventor in exchange for a full description of how to carry out the invention.
While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants six different types of patent documents (such as; Utility Patent, Design Patent, Plant Patent, Reissue Patent, Defensive Publication (DEF) and Statutory Invention Registration (SIR)) that cover different types of subject matter and provide different types of protection to the inventors’ invention ideas, the utility patent covers the most common categories of innovation.
Once granted, the utility patent gives protection to an inventor’s invention for 20 years–starting from the application date.
As is suggested by its name, utility patents are granted to inventions that produce some kind of fruitful result, contrary to the design patents that purely protect the ornamental or artistic designs on valuable objects.
Utility patent, one of the most widely granted types of patent, is divided into three different categories, depending upon the invention’s functionality; chemical, electrical and mechanical.
A utility patents gives protection to the use and functionality of an invention, and anyone who carries out an invention of unique process, like machine, device, method, manufactured product or chemical compound, is eligible to file an application for a patent.
An inventor can also apply for patent if he/she improves (a machine, process, product or to the composition of matter) and enhances an existing invention which is useful, new and unique.
One of the best examples of an improved and enhanced technology is the OLED technology from LED. This improvement includes a modification or alteration in the material that is used for light emitting diodes from a synthetic to organic material.
To determine whether or not your invention qualifies for a non-provisional utility patent, you need to make sure that if it amply differs from the existing items, and that all of its aspects can be described in definite and clear terms.
As regards to this, it will be wise if you perform a patent search on your own.
Or else, you can hire the services of a patent attorney or a patent research firm to save your time and get rid of the hassle of making it on your own. Remember, a patent cannot be granted to an idea or suggestion.
A design patent, under the United States Patent Law, is a type of legal document that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants to an ornamental design of a functional item.
These types of patents are a kind of industrial design right that mainly depends upon the drawings to communicate what is protected. Some of the examples of objects that come under the design patents include ornamental designs of furniture, jewelry, computer icons and beverage containers.
The design patent consists of just one claim, which, instead of giving description of the design in words or listing any structure, in general denotes to the drawings like a standard of what is protected. The design patent, rather than focusing on utility, concentrates on an ornamental design of an article of commerce. The USPTO defines the design of an object to be the visual aspects or characteristics the object displays.
Though a design patent is granted for a utilitarian article, such a patent is obtainable just to the extent that the ornamental features overlook the functional feats.
The United States design patent does not protect a design, which is primarily utilitarian in nature.
The USPTO does not issue design patent to the surface decoration or ornamental configuration, or both. It is, however, granted for an article. Remember the design patents are not issued for methods and ornamental features that cannot be viewed when the product is being used.
To qualify for a design patent, the subject must be unique, brand new, non-identical with any previously existing prior art, original, unobvious and meet the ornamental standards. Generally speaking, the USPTO grants design patents to the aesthetically appealing features of a product.
Similar to a utility patent, a design patent also goes through the examination process (a prior-art search) in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A design patent is generally granted for a term of 14 years.
Once an inventor has obtained the design patent, he/she is authorized to prevent others from using, manufacturing, or putting a product for sale without the prior permission of the patentee of that particular design.
In brief, a design patent can be obtained only when the innovative work consists of a product with matchless ornamental features.
The plant patent is usually granted to the inventor (or the inventor’s heirs or assigns) that has invented a new plant hybrid, asexually reproduced a new and distinct variety of plant, excluding a tuber propagated plant or a plant discovered in an uncultivated state. When the inventor, reproducer, or discoverer is granted with a plant patent by the USPTO,
it gives protection for 20 years right from the date of filing the application, excluding others from selling, asexually reproducing, or using the plant so reproduced. It is important to note that the patent is not issued for every plant; for instance, the patent cannot be granted for a tuberous plant.
The U.S. Plant and Trademark Office considers a plant as living thing that is naturally composed. The genes that plant possess help in making possible the natural composition of a plant. These genes are easy to be reproduced in an asexual capacity, permitting the genes to be shifted to daughter plants.
Hybrid plants, mutants and plants that have gone through transformation are the most common types of plants that are provided patent right by the USPTO. A mutant plant could be related to one of two sources – naturally created or discovered. The same is applicable to hybrids that can be created intentionally or is available to find in nature.
Some guidelines that help you determine whether or not a plant can be patented are given below:
- The plant must differ from any already existing plant, with as a minimum one change in its composition. While comparing with another plant, the prospective patented plant must differ in one thing at least.
- The plant must have newness, which means that it has either been created in a greenhouse or nursery, or it has been discovered in nature.
- Only the first inventor, reproducer, or discoverer can file for the plant patent application.
- While filing application for plant patent, other people in the plant industry must not have visualized it as an obvious invention.
- The plant must not have gone on sale before the patent application.
- The plant must not have been shown to the public for more than one year before the patent application.
With a view to qualifying for a plant patent, the patentee must have an asexually reproduced plant methods.
There are people who may not understand the exact meaning of asexual reproduction; however it commonly breeds in a subsequent generation of plants that may exactly replicate it in genes or appearance, like the mother plant.
This totally contrasts to sexual reproduction, wherein the offspring does not have an exact replication. Bulbs, runners, grafts, cuttings from roots, plants produced in the layering process, or corms are some of the best examples of asexually reproduced plants that the US Patent Office consider patent-worthy.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issues a reissue patent for the correction of a major error in an already issued patent. The reissue patent can be granted for utility, design, or plant patents. A reissue patent doesn’t make any change in the term of the original patent.
It just corrects the original error of the patent. Merely patent holders can file reissue patent applications.
According to the U.S., patent holders cannot even make request to extend the scope of their invention by applying for a reissue application. However, applicants that seek to enlarge the scope of their invention must fill in the reissue patent application within 2 years right from the patent has been issued. The applicants must pay a fee if they look to the option of reissue patents.
A patent can be reissued only if the original patent has some significant errors.
Spelling, grammar, editorial, failure to file a divisional, to correct a non-substantive drawing change, typographical or clerical errors and mistakes do not come under the significant errors.
Some examples of commonly considered significant errors by PTO are as follows:
- Too broad or too narrow claims. However, the applicants wanting to expand the scope of their invention must fill in the reissue applications within 2-years since the original patent has been granted.
- There are a few inaccuracies in specification disclosures.
- Incorrect claims or failure to claim foreign priority.
There are four ways that help in correcting a patent: (1) reissue, (2) certificate of correction, (3) disclaimer, and (4) reexamination. It is important to note that reissue is not allowed unless there is a mistake in the patent offering the granted patent partly or wholly invalid or inoperative.
Filing Requirements for Reissue
Some of the points to be taken into account while applying for reissue patent are as follows:
- It must be included with the same parts as the original application; it must not include any new matter
- It must enclose a copy of any disclaimer, a certificate of correction or reexamination issued in the patent.
- Mention any concurrent or previous proceedings wherein the patent was or is involved (for example reissues, interferences, re-exams, or litigation) and the outcomes of such proceedings
- Submission of an amendment could be made while a reissue is filed (Remember that there exist explicit needs for the way the specification, claims, and drawings have to be modified in reissue.