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How do I find a patent?

Information about patents and how to research them.

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How many types of patents are there?

  • In the United States there are three types of patents:
    • Utility Patents
    • Design Patents
    • Plant Patents
  • Each of the three categories applies to specific types of inventions or creations.
  • US patent rights apply in all 50 states, as well as in US territories. To secure international rights, US patent owners must file patent applications in other countries.

 

Utility Patents

Utility patents are granted for inventing or discovering a new machine, device, process, manufactured object, or composition of matter, such as a new chemical compound (or improving a current machine, device, process, manufactured object, or composition of matter). Utility patents are granted for a 20 year period. Utility patents are the most common type of patent and can include a wide range of things, such as velcro, computer hardware components or software, new medicines, and more, almost anything that can be manufactured by humans could be eligible for a utility patent.

USPTO Utility Patent Application Filing Guide

Example of a utility patent: Cargo carrier, Patent No. US 427948A

patent example

(Patent No. US 427948A)

Design Patents

Design patents are granted for inventing a new, original, and ornamental design for a manufactured item. This could apply to the design of items including lamps, buildings, cell phone cases, and more. Design patents protect only the appearance of the item; they are only for designs that are ornamental, but not functional. Design patents are granted for a 14 year period.

USPTO Guide to Filing a Design Patent [PDF]

Example of a design patent: Solar panel arrangement, Patent No. US D600200 S1

design patent example

(Patent No. US D600200 S1)

Plant Patents

Plant patents are granted for inventing or discovering any distinct, new variety of plant that can be asexually reproduced (plant patents apply only to plants that do not naturally reproduce through pollination). Plant patents are granted for a 20 year period.

USPTO Overview of Plant Patents

Example of a plant patent: Strawberry Plant Named 'DrisStrawThirty,' Patent No. US 20130276183 P1

plant patent

(Patent No. US 20130276183 P1)