A patent grants
its owner the right to
exclude others from
or offering for sale,
the patented invention.
FAQ Different Types of Patents
...what can & can't be patented
What is a patent?
A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by the government to an inventor. Specifically, a patent gives its owner, the inventor or a business to which such patent was transferred, the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, importing, or offering an invention for sale. This right is granted only for a limited period of time, and depending on its application may last for 14, 17, or 20 years.
What are the different types of patents?
There are three types of patents: 1) utility patent - focusing on the functionality of an apparatus, chemical compositions, and methods of doing business; 2) design patent - focusing on the uniqueness of the visible shape of an object; 3) plant patent - focusing on plants created using artificial methods like grafts, commonly known as asexually reproductive plants.
What can be patented?
Nearly anything can be patented as long as the invention satisfies the "novelty" and "unobviousness" requirements of the patent law. Simply stating, your invention must be different from what is already known to the public, and cannot be viewed as obvious by someone skilled in the field of expertise that your invention belongs to.
What can't be patented?
The most common things that cannot be patented are things that are not useful. Also, patents are not issued for abstract ideas, meaning ideas that cannot be shown in some physical form or displayed by words, numbers or letters. Therefore, you will not be able to patent scientific principles in the abstract, that is principles not directly associated with some physical hardware component. Above all, you will not be able to patent things that occur naturally in nature without human intervention. By the same token, you will not be able to patent any process performed only mentally. Other things, that could be useful and otherwise would qualify as patentable invention, like cloned human beings or atomic energy inventions, are also not patentable due to various moral and safety concerns.
Is it possible to lose a patent?
In short, absolutely. The patent rights can be lost for a variety of reasons. It can be lost for not paying the required maintenance fees (paid at 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/2 after parent is granted), or simply because some previous patent (called "prior art") came to light showing that your invention isn't new after all. Also, you will lose your patent if you commit a fraud against the Patent Office; which frequently is associated with failure to disclose something material to patentability.