A patent is an intellectual property 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 when the patent is granted.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal Agency charged with granting U.S. Patents and registering Federal Trademarks.
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. In general, the term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. U.S. design patents resulting from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 have a 15 year term from the date of grant (applications filed earlier had a 14 year term).
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. Term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
Patent Application - Because there is not a simple form to complete to file a patent, each application is unique, and comprises a number of required forms.
Provisional Patent Application - provides simplified filing with a lower initial cost and one full year to prepare to file a "regular" (non-provisional) patent application. Successful filing establishes an official United States patent application filing date for the invention, permitting the inventor to use the term "patent pending" for one year. There is no such thing as a provisional patent - only a provisional patent application.
NOVEL - not known or used by others in this country or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country
USEFUL - must have a purpose, and it must operate to perform the intended purpose
NON-OBVIOUS - must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before and not obvious to someone skilled in the art of the technology related to the invention