A post from our student blogger Sarah Goodman
In the MSPL program at the University of Notre Dame I learned that there are three different types of patents granted by the USPTO.
A utility patent is issued for a new and useful invention or improvement to an existing invention. An invention qualifying for a utility patent must be a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. A granted utility patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for up to twenty years with the payment of maintenance fees. This is the most common type of patent issued by the USPTO.
A design patent is issued for a new, original, and ornamental design. This design must be used for an article of manufacture. A design is inseparable from the article of manufacture and cannot exist alone. A granted design patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for fourteen years with no maintenance fees required. Both a utility and a design patent may be obtained if the invented article possesses functional utility as well as an inventive ornamental design.
A plant patent is issued for a new and distinct asexually reproduced plant. This plant can be either invented or discovered and includes mutants, hybrids, and new seedlings not found in nature. If a natural plant mutant is discovered, it must have been discovered in a cultivated area to qualify for a plant patent. The USPTO considers algae and macro fungi eligible for plant patents. A granted plant patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the plant for up to twenty years with no maintenance fees required. A utility patent application can be additionally filed having claims to a plant and plant components including seeds and genes. Inventors who develop reproducing plants such as corn and wheat tend to file an additional utility patent application which may be granted if the plant fulfills the useful, novel, and nonobvious requirements.
For our capstone projects, we are learning how to write a utility patent for an invention disclosure from a Notre Dame faculty member.