A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.
There are three different kinds of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant patents.
- Utility Patents: The most common type of patent, these are granted to new machines, chemicals, and processes.
- Design Patents: Granted to protect the unique appearance or design of manufactured objects, such as the surface ornamentation or overall design of the object.
- Plant Patents: Granted for the invention and asexual reproduction of new and distinct plant varieties, including hybrids (asexual reproduction means the plant is reproduced by means other than from seeds, such as by grafting or rooting of cuttings).
An inventor applying for a utility patent must prove that the invention is useful. The invention must have some beneficial use and must be operable. A machine that will not operate to perform its intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent. A useful invention may qualify for a utility patent only if it falls into one of five categories: a process, a machine, a manufacture, a composition of matter, or an improvement of one of these.