What is a patent and
who can apply for it?
The patent it's a right granted by
the government to a person or to a legal entity (partnership or corporation)
The patent gives its holder the right to exclude others from making, using,
or selling the invention "claimed" in the patent deer for
approximately 17 to 18 years, provided certain fees are paid.
Anyone can apply for a patent, regardless of age, nationality, mental
competency, incarceration, or any other characteristic, so long as he or she
is a true inventor of the invention.
A patent is a form of personal property and can be sold outright for a lump
sum, or its owner can give anyone permission to use the invention covered in
return for royalty payments.
Types of patents.
Utility patents cover inventions
that function in a unique manner to produce a utilitarian result. Examples of
utility inventions are Velcro hook-and-loop fasteners, new drugs, electronic
circuits, software, semiconductors manufacturing processes, new bacteria, new
animals, plants, automatic transmission, and virtually anything else under
the sum that can be made by humans. To get a utility patent, one must file a
patent application that consists of a detailed description telling how to
make and use the invention, together with claims that define the invention,
drawings of the invention, formal paperwork, and a filing fee.
Design patents covers the unique, ornamental or visible shape or design
of an object, even if only on a computer screen. Thus if a lamp, a building,
a computer case, or a desk has a truly unique shape, its design can be design
patented. Even computer screen icons can be patented. However, the uniqueness
of the shape must be purely ornamental or aesthetic; if it is functional,
then only a utility patent is proper, even if it is also aesthetic. A good
example is a jet plane with a constricted waist for reducing turbulence at
supersonic speeds: although the shape is attractive, its functionality makes
it suitable only for a utility patent.
A useful way to
distinguish between a design and a utility invention is to ask, "Will
removing or smoothing out the novel features substantially impair the
function of the device?" If so--as in the jet plane with the narrowed
waist--this proves that the novel features have a significant functional
purpose, so a utility patent is indicated. If not--as in a woodshop wall
clock that is shaped like a circular saw blade, or a phone that is shaped
like a shoe--a design patent is indicated. Another useful question to ask is,
"Is the novel feature(s) there for structural or functional reasons, or
only for the purpose of ornamentation?"
The design patent application must consist primarily of drawings, along with
formal paperwork and a filing fee.
Plant patent covers asexually reproducible plants (that is, through the
use of grafts and cuttings), such as flowers. Sexually reproducible plants
(that is, those that use pollination), can be monopolized under the Plant
Variety Protection Act. Both sexually and asexually reproducible plants can
now also be monopolized by utility patent.