What do patents do?

If you have ever needed more information on what patents do, read on, and gain incredible insight.
Posted on
June 27, 2022
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Minute Read

The term “patent” refers to an issued document that has been granted by the governing body (the U.S. government).  This gives the patent owner rights that can be enforced against unauthorized infringers of the patented invention. Patents are evidence of rights given to inventors to protect their inventions.  Generally, patents are one type of protection for intellectual property.  Intellectual property generally refers to intangible assets that someone claims ownership in by virtue of creating those assets.  Additionally, intangible assets may be transferred from the original creator to another person or entity.  

Examples of Patents

In the U.S. there are three different types of patents: Utility, Design, and Plant.  Each type of patent has its own filing requirements, examination procedures, term of protection, and criteria for enforcement against infringers.

Utility Patents

A utility patent recognizes an invention or discovery for a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter.  These categories are often referred to by other names, including methods of use, business methods, methods of manufacture, apparatuses, devices, systems, and other names.  The invention or discovery may be entirely new or may be an improvement on an existing method, device, system, or chemical composition. 

Utility patents are the most common type of U.S. patent.  They are usually valid for 20 years from the time that the patent application was originally filed.  Maintenance fees are required at certain time throughout the 20 years to keep the patent in force.  As with other patent rights, utility patents are only enforceable after the patent goes through the examination process and is granted.  

Design Patents

A design patent recognizes a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.  This type of patent focuses on the ornamental design, instead of the physical structure or functionality.

Plant Patents

A plant patent recognizes distinct and new asexually reproduced varieties of plants.  Some aspects of such plants, and the methods of making them, can all be protected by utility patents.  Plant patents provide protection for 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application.  Given especial nature of this type of patent, and its relatively limited use, this chapter will not focus on the additional details of obtaining or enforcing plant patents.

How does the Patent system work?

The U.S. Constitution grants to Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” This is the constitutional basis used to pass federal laws (“patent laws”)that govern how patents are granted and enforced.  The patent laws give the executive branch of the federal government the latitude to adopt additional regulations (“patent rules”) that govern specific procedures for examining patent applications and granting patents.  

These patent laws and rules are used by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO) to manage the patent process for all inventions seeking U.S. patent protection.  Similarly, U.S. courts use the patent laws to settle patent disputes.

Individual states do not have patent systems or authority to grant or govern patents. However, contractual agreements tangential to patent rights(transferring ownership or licensing rights) are governed by individual state laws.

As noted above, different countries and international organizations have their own laws, rules, and procedures to apply for a patent and to enforce a granted patent.  Attorneys or other patent practitioners in each countryman assist inventors and applicants through the specific processes in their respective countries. This is where Intellectual Strategies comes in, we are here to help you wade through this process. Schedule a 15-minute introductory call now to find out how we can help you with your professional goals.

In 2015, the Business Law Section of the Utah State Bar selected me to write a couple chapters about intellectual property law for their new book. The book, Utah Business Law for Entrepreneurs & Managers, was directed to business owners, manager, and entrepreneurs.

This blog post is from my chapter on patents.

Jeff Holman
Jeff Holman draws from a broad background that spans law, engineering, and business. He is driven to deploy strategic business initiatives that create enterprise value and establish operational efficiencies.

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