An inventor can protect their patents by becoming incredibly knowledgeable of the various types of patents and how to use them.
The government provides inventors various patents to most effectively protect and accommodate all the different inventions out there. By understanding each patent and its respective application, an inventor can best utilize the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect their invention.
The Different Types of Patents
Because inventors have so many different types of inventions, it only makes sense that the government provides various patents to protect any ideas. Inventors decide which patents they would like to apply for once they consider what type of invention they have. Doing so secures the rights they need to protect their ideas most effectively.
The four different types of patents include:
- Utility Patents
These are the most commonly known patents. Utility patents are extensive, technical documents that teach the public how to use a new machine and its process and system. Congress determines what kinds of inventions require utility patents. However, because of new technology like internet-delivered software and genetic engineering, utility patent protection boundaries are everchanging.
- Provisional Patents
In the United States, inventors can file a less formal document proving their ownership of an invention. In other words, this document includes information that proves their possession of the idea and the concepts that prove the invention works. Once this document is filed, the invention becomes patent pending. However, it is essential to note that inventors must then file a formal utility patent within a year of filing the provisional patent. If they fail to do so, they will lose their original filing date. Also, the USPTO, or United States Patent and Trademark Office, will count any public disclosures made in conjunction with the provisional patent as public disclosures to themselves.
- Design Patents
This type of patent protects any ornamental designs on useful items. For example, a shoe’s design or a bottle’s shape can all be protected by design patents. Typically, design patents are entirely made up of drawings and pictures of the item’s design. This nature makes them extremely hard to search because they consist of very few words. More recently, software companies have to protect specific elements of user interfaces and even the shapes of touchscreen devices using design patents.
- Plant Patents
These patents are pretty self-explanatory in that they protect new plant types produced by cuttings and other nonsexual manners. Moreover, plant patents do not protect genetically modified organisms. Instead, these patents are focused on preserving the rights to conventional horticulture.
More on Provisional Patents
As mentioned above, provisional patents allow inventors an extra year to determine whether they want to proceed with a utility patent. Even more, they can decide how they want to go about filing the patent. Doing so allows inventors to file multiple patents resulting in risk mitigation, loss prevention, and expanded patent protection.
For example, let’s say you are stirring brownie batter with a whisk. However, you realize that by flattening the tines, you are able to mix the batter in a fraction of the time. So, you print a 3D prototype, and you realize that not only does this new design improve its function, but it also looks unique.
Once you apply for the patent, you must weigh how you can most effectively protect your new invention. Filing a design patent will protect your whisk’s unique look, while a utility patent can protect the whisk itself and its mechanisms. It would also be wise to file a provisional patent so that you can obtain more time to file the formal utility application.
In the end, this patent variety provides inventors with options on how to go about filing their applications and protecting their work. While your initial provisional patent application may begin with three different design concepts for your new whisk, you may find that one may not be as accessible or functional as the others.
So, months down the road, you find that you need to refocus your patent strategies and emphasize your most reliable design.
By filing a provisional patent, you allow yourself an extra year to truly understand your patented device and its market.
However, it is equally important to note that you must strategically file your patents. Because the USPTO publishes utility patent applications only a few months after they have been filed, your application is considered prior art against any future inventions you may want to patent. So, it is crucial that you file patents mindfully to avoid sabotaging your inventions down the line.
The Bottom Line: Protect Your Invention
You may as well consider every available patent protection if you have already decided you will go through the effort of filing a patent application. You must consider all four of the U.S.’s patent applications to effectively protect your ideas, save your money, and gain a more significant investment return down the road.
Stanzione & Associates, PLLC is an intellectual property law firm with over 30 years of experience protecting corporate entities, start-ups, and individual inventors. Stanzione & Associates, PLLC stands above other Intellectual Property law firms because of Mr. Stanzione’s extensive experience working at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a supervisory level patent examiner. At Stanzione & Associates, PLLC, we have the insight and long-term relationships with the USPTO to work well with patent examiners to achieve quality patents.