WHAT IS A PATENT?
A patent is an IP right granted by the government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF PATENTS: UTILITY, DESIGN AND PLANT.
- Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
- Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
- Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL BASIS FOR PATENTS?
The legal basis for patents was written into Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution:
“The Congress shall have the power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for a limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
As framed by the language in the U.S. Constitution, a patent provides a quid pro quo between the patent owner and the public.
- The patent owner benefits from the exclusive rights to make, use, offer to sell, and sell their invention for a limited time (20 years from the filing date). This exclusive time period allows inventors to recoup their investments in the invention and to benefit from its acceptance in the marketplace.
- The interested public benefits because it is allowed to learn from the technical information disclosed in the patent during the limited time period, and further because it is allowed to use the invention as disclosed in the patent upon expiration.
WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO GRANT PATENT RIGHTS?
The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) is the agency within the Department of Commerce and the Executive Branch that is tasked with the following general duties:
(1) granting and issuing of patents and the registration of trademarks; and
(2) disseminating to the public information with respect to patents and trademarks.
The scope of patent rights granted by the USPTO is limited to the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. No other entities (e.g., States) are permitted to grant patent rights in the United States.