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How do you apply for a patent? And what patents are available?

A patent, in the simplest of terms, is a legal protection for the inventor of a novel or useful invention. The patent grants that inventor the legal right to forbid others from making, selling or using their patented item. Without patents, you would see the rampant exploitation of inventors and new ideas, co-opted by people for the explicit purpose of profiting off of another person's idea.

But how do you get a patent? And what patents are available to you? Here are a few things to consider:

  • There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents are the most common form of patents. New processes for manufacturing, the composition of matter, new machines and new technical or industrial practices are all examples of things that can be patented under the utility patent.
  • Design patents apply to the overall look of a patented item. The curvature of a cellphone or the ornamentation on a product can be protected by a design patent.
  • Plant patents are as they sound: they are designed for those who create new and distinctive plants.
  • Obtaining a patent is tricky, and it takes a lot of planning and organization. The process also changes a bit from patent to patent, so what matters most is what type of patent you plan on applying for. Ultimately, if you don't have enough specifics yet to compose a patent application, you can apply for a provisional patent, which gives you one year to figure out your invention's specifics so that you can properly fill out a patent application.

Source: FindLaw, "Types of Patents," Accessed Jan. 31, 2017

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