What are patents?

by Charles R. Wilson, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist 

Patents fall under the general definition of intellectual property law and are products of the human mind or intellect. Patents include utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. A utility patent is for the structural and functional aspects of products and processes. A design patent is for the ornamental design or appearance of useful objects. A plant patent is for a new variety of living plant. Utility patents are the most common type of patent. The first step is to file a patent application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fully describing the product or process. The application includes a set of claims identifying what the inventor considers the invention. The application is examined for newness, unobviousness and usefulness. A patent will issue if all requirements are met. The patent gives the inventor a court enforceable right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the claimed invention in the U.S.

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