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Patent: Types

Smith Hopen Intellectual Property Term Glossary Definition for Patent: Types
A utility patent protects the functional aspects of an invention and not the ornamental features as does a design patent (see below).  Utility patents protect new software, mechanical items, chemical formulations, methods and processes that are new, useful and non-obvious.

A provisional patent application is a quick and inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention which can be claimed in a later filed nonprovisional application. A provisional application is automatically abandoned twelve months after its filing date and is not examined. An applicant who decides to initially file a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier provisional application filing.

A design patent is directed to an ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A design may consist of surface ornamentation, ornamental configuration of combination thereof. Design patents can also cover computer displays and icons which are non-functional. The term of a design patent is 14 years and there are no maintenance fees.

A reissue patent application is filed to correct mistakes in the issued patent. Such "reissue applications" must typically be filed within a particular period of time following issuance of the original patent. In the United States, the patent holder may even seek to broaden the scope of the invention defined in the claims by filing a reissue application, although a broadening reissue in the USA must be filed within 2 years from grant. Also, in the United States, only the patent holder may file for reissue.

A plant patent is granted by the Government to an inventor (or the inventor's heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. The grant, which lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application, protects the inventor's right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced. This protection is limited to a plant in its ordinary meaning:
  • A living plant organism which expresses a set of characteristics determined by its single, genetic makeup or genotype, which can be duplicated through asexual reproduction, but which can not otherwise be "made" or "manufactured."
  • Sports, mutants, hybrids, and transformed plants are comprehended; sports or mutants may be spontaneous or induced. Hybrids may be natural, from a planned breeding program, or somatic in source. While natural plant mutants might have naturally occurred, they must have been discovered in a cultivated area.
  • Algae and macro fungi are regarded as plants, but bacteria are not.


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