When an inventor or innovative business creates a novel, reproducible product, product design, manufacturing process or even a certain kind of plant species, they can apply for intellectual property protection through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The USPTO offers individuals and businesses the opportunity to secure utility, design and plant patents. It’s important to understand that each of these patent categories is subject to specific eligibility criteria. You can’t simply say, “I invented something, so I want a patent.” Your work must meet certain standards to qualify for patent protection. For example, new plant species are only eligible for patent protection if it is a newly invented or discovered plant that reproduces asexually and is neither a tuber nor uncultivated.
Utility patents, which are the most commonly approved kinds of patents offered by the USPTO, involve novel inventions for reproducible and useful products, processes, machines or “composition of matter.”
Finally, design patents – which are the only patents not eligible for the provisional patent application process – concern ornamental designs for the kinds of inventions that are eligible for utility patents. The design in question must be new and original in nature.
Filing a patent
By understanding the kinds of inventions, innovative processes, product designs and plant species that are eligible to be patented, businesses and individuals alike can craft an overall intellectual property management and protection strategy more effectively.
Once an invention or innovation that is eligible for a patent is close to being fully realized and reproducible, it is important to seek legal guidance regarding the intricacies of intellectual property law in order to have the best possible chance of securing a patent before the invention in question is no longer considered novel due to claims of prior art.