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A Patent is defined as, “the grant of a property right to the inventor” – The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A patent is a necessary form of intellectual property protection and helps protect the mechanisms, principles, and components of an inventor’s invention.

What is a Provisional Patent Application?

A Provisional Patent Application is an application-for-patent that is filed with the USPTO. It allows filing without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration. It allows the term “Patent-Pending” to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.

The focus is on describing the invention to the greatest extent possible. It is critically important that inventors understand that a Provisional Patent Application must describe the invention as completely in a Provisional Patent Application as is required in a Non-Provisional Patent Application.

A Provisional Patent Application lasts for 12 months from the date the application is filed. The 12-month period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant will have to file a Non-Provisional Patent Application claiming the priority of a Provisional Patent Application within 12 months.

The best use of a Provisional Patent Application is to establish priority as soon as you have an invention concept or idea that can be patented. This is very much “first come first serve” and is important to have a filing date as soon after conception of the invention as possible. Bonus! This allows inventors to continue to work with the invention, improve what they’ve invented or work on additional versions of the invention as well as seek outside help in the form of licensing deals or investors.

What is a Non-Provisional Patent Application?

A Non-Provisional Patent Application begins the official examination process for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to determine if an invention or discovery is eligible to receive patent protection.

A Non-Provisional Patent Application includes much of the same information as a Provisional Patent Application but with claims, patent drawings, and an oath/declaration of the invention.

What is a Utility Patent?

A Utility Patent is the most common type of patent that people seek and has a maximum patent term of 20 years from the filing date of the Utility Patent Application. Additionally, maintenance fees are required for Utility Patents to keep them in force and maintain legal protection.

The 4 different categories that are covered under a Utility Patent are Processes, Compositions of Matter, Machines, and Manufactures.

  • Processes refers to any acts or methods of doing something, usually involving industrial or technical processes.
  • Compositions of Matter relates to compositions that can include a mixture of ingredients or new chemical compounds.
  • Machines includes anything that is generally defined as a machine, such as a computer.
  • Manufacturers are defined as goods that are manufactured or made.

What is a Design Patent?

A Design Patent can be applied for new, original, and/or ornamental design manufacture inventions and has a maximum patent term of 15 years. This patent protects the appearance/ “surface ornamentation” of an invention, which can include the shape or configuration, but not the invention’s structural or functional features (i.e., the Statue of Liberty and the original Coca-Cola bottle.)

To protect the functional or structural features of an object, a person must also file for a Utility Patent.

Regardless of the type of patent you are seeking, patent protection can only be obtained by filing an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).