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Selecting a Patent Application Type

The invention must be new (in all the world), not obvious relative to known things and combinations of known things, and must be describable in the patent application, in such detail as to enable others to make and use the invention.

Three separate types of U.S. patents are available as follows:

  • A Utility patent (most common) protects the physical aspects of inventions and how they work, including: a process or method, a machine or device, an article of manufacture, a composition of matter or materials, and, any new improvement on any of these. The utility patent is considered to potentially provide broader (stronger) patent protection.
  • A Design patent protects the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. The design patent is considered to potentially provide narrower (weaker) patent protection.
  • A Plant patent protects any asexually reproduced, distinct and new variety of plant other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state (wild).

Additional forms of patent protection are available as follows:

  • A Provisional patent (PPA) provides one year of internationally recognized Patent Pending status. It is not examined and does not result in a granted patent; however, while active, it acts as a "place holder" and its filing date may be applied to a follow-on utility patent application. It has a simplified filing procedure and a small filing fee.
  • An International patent (PCT) allows one to wait up to 30 months from the date of first application in the U.S. before filing foreign applications without loss of priority. The PCT does not result in a granted patent; however, follow-on applications into selected countries or regions may claim the priority date established by the PCT or earlier application.
  • A Foreign National patent protects the invention in whichever individual country the application is filed. The application must be translated into the national language of the country in which it is filed.
  • A European Regional patent is filed in English, and prosecuted at the European Patent Office in a manner similar to a U.S. filing. When issued, rights are validated in each selected country with translations where required.

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