The common types of U.S. patents that are available to innovative New York entrepreneurs seeking to protect their intellectual property falls into three common categories based on the type of invention in question: design, utility and plant patents.
Utility patents are chiefly concerned with how an invention functions. A utility patent may be applied to a wide range of unique and innovative new products or processes. It prevents others from manufacturing, selling, using or distributing your invention. Utility patents last for 20 years running from the date that the patent application was filed. In addition to the initial patent filing fees, inventors must submit maintenance fees throughout the life of the patent in order to keep the patent’s protection.
Design patents are any enhancement or adornment applied to an existing item or the design for a new product. It protects the aesthetic appearance and can be issued for the appearance, design, shape or general ornamentation of an invention that are new, specific and not obvious. Design patents prevent others from using, selling or manufacturing the appearance of your product. A design patent is good for 14 years from the date the patent was granted. There are no maintenance fees associated with a design patent, and the patent is sustained without question once it is issued. A prime example of a design patent is when Microsoft received one for the “X” on its XBox product because it was deemed a unique appearance that would have harmed Microsoft’s business if copied.
A third but less common patent than the first two is the plant patent. Plant patents are available for the discovery or invention of plants that are asexually reproduced. They must be novel, distinct and not obvious. Plant patents have a 20-year lifespan plus maintenance fees should be paid. This type of patent was created in order to protect the grower who found a new variety of plant through, for example, grafting. Hybrids (though not first-generation) can have plant patents, which prevent others from growing and selling the plants. An example of a plant patent would be the “fire and ice” hybrid rose that florists sell.