Intellectual property is often a company's most valuable asset. Whether your company is known for its innovative aesthetic designs or groundbreaking practical technology, the ideas and inventions that make your company unique provide a competitive advantage that keeps you ahead. Different types of patents serve as the primary protection for these technologies, designs, and inventions, ensuring that no one else is permitted to copy your ideas without permission. Because of the variety of innovations in the market, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has created several different types of patents to address the varying needs of different innovations.
Priori has a network of top patent lawyers skilled in all different types of patents to ensure that you choose the right patent type and patent attorney for your needs.
The Three Types of Patents in the U.S.
In the United States, there are three different types of patents that offer intellectual property protections. These different types of patents are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
A utility patent is the most common type of patent filed in the U.S. Known as “patents for invention,” utility patents can protect any unique and novel product, process, machine, or composition of matter, as well as significant new improvements thereof. Protection from a utility patent lasts for 20 years.
A design patent protects the aesthetic design of a product. Design patents can protect any original ornamental design embodied in or applied to a product. Protection from a design patent lasts for 14 years.
A plant patent can protect any distinct, newly invented or discovered asexually reproduced plant varietal. Protection from a plant patent lasts for 20 years.
Choosing the Right Patent Types
In many cases, the right patent for your needs seems obvious, but sometimes it is less clear-cut. In many cases, the utility and design of an invention are difficult to separate. An experienced patent lawyer will be able to guide you to the best choice of patent for your needs.
In cases where an early filing date can be useful, you may consider filing a provisional patent. Technically, a provisional patent is not a type of patent. Instead, it is a preliminary patent application that allows you to preserve your intellectual property rights while you finish the paperwork to file for one of the different types of non-provisional patent. But remember that only filing for a non-provisional patent offers you full patent protection; the provisional patent application only extends the protections ultimately awarded once a full patent is approved back to when the provisional application was filed. In many cases, a provisional patent application offers some peace of mind as you embark on the lengthy process of filing for a full patent. When you discuss filing a patent with an intellectual property lawyer, it is important to ask whether your needs would be better served by taking the intermediary step of filing for a provisional patent.
A U.S. patent only offers protection within the United States. If you are planning on marketing your invention abroad, it is sometimes prudent to file for a foreign patent as well. Generally, most countries offer the same three different types of patents as those offered in the U.S. An experienced international patent lawyer will be able to help you decide if this extra step is necessary and can help you complete the process of filing for reciprocal protection abroad.
Depending on the complexity of what you would like to protect with a patent and the types of patents you need, the cost of filing a patent application can vary significantly. When you hire a lawyer in the Priori network, a patentability search will typically cost anywhere from $400 to $3,000. A provisional patent application can cost from $600 to $3,500, while a non-provisional patent application may cost from $4,750 to $20,000. Design patent applications tend to be significantly cheaper and can range from $945 to $2,000. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and receive a free price quote from one of our lawyers.
How long will it take to file for different types of patents?
The average time it takes to process a patent is 24.6 months, but in general, this timeframe applies to utility patents. A plant patent tends to take a bit longer, as the level of rigor applied to the scientific examination of a plant patent is high. A design patent takes the least time to process and is typically issued within 12 months of the date of filing. No matter which types of patents you choose to file, working with an experienced patent lawyer will ensure an efficient and successful filing and ultimately cut down the length of this process as much as possible.
Can I file more than one type of patent for a single invention?
You can only apply for one type of patent for each element of a product, but a single invention may have important functional and ornamental characteristics, which means that it could qualify for separate design and utility patents. Technology made for aesthetic appeal, such as cell phones, computers, cars, etc. often have patented design elements and patented useful components. Although plant patents are unlikely to be issued in conjunction with other patents, design patents and utility patents can be used together to provide intellectual property protections to all aspects of your invention.