Types of Patents

 Patent, Then Profit

Remember, a patent is your only protection against theft of your invention. Inventors who acquire patents control the fate of their ideas. Once a patent is obtained, an invention may not be lawfully manufactured, duplicated, used or sold without the inventor’s consent. It also provides the basis for subsequent licensing agreements. A patent can be sold outright, or it can be licensed to a company in exchange for royalties. You can also use the patent to maintain yourself as the exclusive source of the invention.

There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

Utility Patent

A utility patent protects functional aspects of an invention and, once issued, usually lasts for 20 years from its filing date. Before filing this application, you may want to file a provisional utility application to test marketplace interest in your invention. It will also give you up to a year of additional "patent pending" status. By doing this, you could benefit from as much as 21 years of combined patent pending/patent status.

Design Patent

A design patent protects the decorative aspects of an invention for a term of 14 years. Design patents should be pursued if the essence of an invention is its appearance, or if the final version has a unique look.

Plant Patent

A plant patent protects the rights of an individual who is first to appreciate the distinctive qualities of a plant and reproduces it asexually (by means other than seeds).

Provisional Utility Patent Application

The initial utility patent application can be a provisional patent application, which may be useful to obtain "patent pending" on ideas during final stages of development or while raising capital or test marketing. The provisional application only establishes the filing date and automatically becomes abandoned after one year. The Patent Office does not examine a provisional application and such an application cannot become a patent. You must submit the non-provisional application within one year of submitting your provisional application in order to possibly receive the benefit of the provisional application's filing date. You do not have to file a provisional application before filing a non-provisional application.

Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application

The provisional application must be converted into a non-provisional application to continue with the patent process. A U.S. non-provisional utility application can be filed initially or based on a provisional application. An international non-provisional application (often called a PCT application) can be filed initially and designate the U.S. for future protection, or can be filed within 12 months of the first filed provisional or non-provisional U.S. utility application and claim priority from that application.

Patent Pending

You will obtain "patent pending" status for your invention by filing a patent application. You can use the designation "patent pending" or "patent applied for" in connection with your invention. This may deter competition and stimulate interest in the invention by potential purchasers.

Some ideas may qualify for multiple patents (both utility and design, more than one utility, etc.), and if more than one application is filed you can use "patents pending" or "patents applied for" in connection with the invention.

International Patent Application

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international agreement for filing patent applications having effect in over 125 countries. Although the PCT system does not provide for the grant of "an international patent", the system simplifies the process of filing patent applications, delays the expenses associated with applying for patent protection in foreign countries, and allows the inventor more time to assess the commercial viability of the invention around the world. Under the PCT, an inventor can file a single international patent application in one language with one patent office in order to simultaneously seek protection for an invention in over 125 countries throughout the world.

An international application via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (P.C.T.) can preserve your options to pursue patents around the world. If filed within 1 year of your first filed U.S. utility application, you can have up to 2-1/2 years from your U.S. filing date to apply for patents in these countries.


To receive free information on patents or if you have any questions, contact us via our secure Contact Form. If you would like us to conduct a patent search for you, please submit your request via our secure Patent Search Request Form.