Types of Patents
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issues several
different types of patent documents offering different kinds
of protection and covering different types of subject matter.
A recently issued PTO patent document is one of six types,
generally described below. See U.S. Code Title 35 - Patents, for
a full description of patents and patent laws.
* Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and
useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of
matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it
generally permits its owner to exclude others from
making, using, or selling the invention for a period of
up to twenty years from the date of patent application
filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the
PTO in recent years have been utility patents, also
referred to as "patents for invention".
* Design Patent- Issued for a new, original, and
ornamental design for an article of manufacture, it
permits its owner to exclude others from making, using,
or selling the design for a period of fourteen years
from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not
subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Please note
that the fourteen year term of a design patent is
subject to change in the near future.
* Plant Patent- Issued for a new and distinct, invented
or discovered asexually reproduced plant including
cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found
seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a
plant found in an uncultivated state, it permits its
owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling
the plant for a period of up to twenty years from the
date of patent application filing ++. Plant patents
are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
* Reissue Patent- Issued to correct an error in an
already issued utility, design, or plant patent, it
does not affect the period of protection offered by the
original patent. However, the scope of patent protection
can change as a result of the reissue patent.
* Defensive Publication (DEF)- Issued instead of a
regular utility, design, or plant patent, it offers
limited protection, defensive in nature, to prevent
others from patenting an invention, design, or plant.
The Defensive Publication was replaced by the Statutory
Invention Registration in 1985-86.
* Statutory Invention Registration (SIR)- This document
replaced the Defensive Publication in 1985-86 and
offered similar protection. Please note that the America
Invents Act (AIA), which was signed into law on September
16, 2011, repeals provisions pertaining to statutory
invention registrations and the issue of these documents
will be discontinued.
++ Although, the length of utility and plant patent protection
(patent term) was previously seventeen years from the date of
patent grant, utility and plant patents filed after June 8, 1995
now have a patent term of up to twenty years from the date of
filing of the earliest related patent application. Utility and
plant patents which were applied for prior to June 8, 1995, and
which were or will be in force after June 8, 1995, now have a
patent term of seventeen years from the date of patent grant or
twenty years from the date of filing of the earliest related
patent application, whichever is longer. Utility patents are
subject to the payment of periodic maintenance fees to keep the
patent in force. Patent terms can be extended under some specific
circumstances. See the U.S. Code Title 35 - Patents for a full
description of patent laws.
Questions regarding this web page should be directed to:
(address as of 3/2013)
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Electronic Information Products Division
Patent Technology Monitoring Team (PTMT)
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450
tel (571) 272-5600
FAX (571) 273-0110
SOURCE: U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
Electronic Information Products Division, Patent Technology Monitoring Team (14 March 2013)
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