Patent An Invention

This article discusses the different types of patents issued for inventions, designs, software and plants.

Design Patent

A new, unique design for a manufactured product can be issued a design patent. This type of patent is for the ornamental shape and appearance of something such as a chair, bicycle helmet or pair of sunglasses. A design patent has a term of 14 years.

Utility Patent

Utility means the quality of being useful. A utility patent is issued for inventions that have a use or for a new and useful improvement to an existing invention.

Utility patents are issued for things that are made - or the process and methods for how something is made - or the composition or formula of ingredients of something that is made.

Referring to our example of a sock invention. We could patent our invention for the thread coating as a new composition. We could also patent our invention for the adapted sewing machine either as a new process and/or a new improvement to an existing invention.

Composition can refer to a recipe for a food or drink or a formula for something - such as a glue.

Process could be for how to separate hydrogen from water or extract petroleum from plastic for example.

Software Patent

A software patent is issued by a government for unique claims on the performance of a computing program.

Most governments have varying limitations on what they will allow in a software patent.

father of software Some countries will not grant a software patent unless the software advances the technical capability of a computer or device. This has led to much interpretation, debate and litigation.

The first software patent ever granted was on April 28, 1968 to Martin A Goetz, who is considered the "Father of the Software Industry."

Goetz developed a software program that changed how data was sorted on a computer. But he had a problem. All the computer companies, such as IBM. gave software away for free.

It's difficult to sell something when your competitors are giving away their competitive products for free.

Goetz was also concerned that computer manufacturers would just copy his software and give it away for free without giving him any compensation.

In April, 1965, Goetz applied for a patent for his "improved data sorting algorithm" software.

In the three-minute interview below, Martin talks about his patent, the validity of some software patents and how the industry is in "a bit of a mess".

Plant Patent

Yes, you can patent an invention for inventing a plant. Anyone who discovers or invents or can asexually reproduce any distinct and new variety of plant can apply for a plant patent.

Asexual reproduction is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as "the propagation of a plant to multiply the plant without the use of genetic seeds to assure an exact genetic copy of the plant being reproduced."

Examples of invented plants are bug resistant canola, disease resistant tomatoes and temperature resistant roses.

Provisional Patent

A provisional patent is a method of registering your utility invention in its early stage of development.

In the United States, as well as other countries, recognition of ownership is given to the first person patents the invention. As a means of resolving the differences in patent laws between countries, a provisional application was devised by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to allow inventors to establish an early filing date for their "utility" inventions.

It is known as a provisional patent application and it allows you to claim a patent pending status.

A provisional application does not guarantee you will be issued a utility patent. A regular patent application must be filed 12 months from the filing date of your provisional application or you will have abandoned your application. There are no exceptions.

The patent pending status allows you a year to test market and/or approach potential licensees before you decide to file for a patent.

Trade Secret

In some cases compositions are kept as trade secrets rather than applying for a utility patent and disclosing the formula. The composition of Coco-Cola and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken are examples of trade secrets.

There is no patent and therefore no costs involved to patent. The protection is only as good as the secret is kept secret.

Understanding the types of patents and the requirements for each will help you research for inventions that may be similar to your own.

It will also assist you, along with other tools, to develop and plan your idea so that you can create and patent an invention for profitability and success.


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