Blog ➥ Category

Published June 2, 2023

Catherine Cavella, ESQ.

Ideas matter. We shape our world through innovative and original ideas that stand on their own or build on the hard work of others. Turning an idea from a thought into a reality requires hard work, resilience, and legal consideration.


Patent protection secures the hard work you put in every day and creates new opportunities for yourself and your business. If you are ready to take your idea to the next level, you must first understand the various types of patents and what requirements exist to obtain protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).


There are three main types of patents:

      • Utility Patents
    • Design Patents
    • Plant Patents

NOTE: This list does not include a provisional patent application (sometimes called a “provisional patent.” A provisional patent application is not a patent itself but is instead a priority document that proves you have established the invention and gives you one year to file for a formal patent.


Utility Patent


Innovators secure a utility patent for brand new inventions, technologies, systems, or processes. These patents require meticulous detail and attention to explain what the invention is, how it works, how it could be made, and what the inventor believes is new (“novel”) over the “prior art” (what has already been done).


Some utility patents cover devices. Other utility patents cover a method or process instead of a device. Some cover a system that uses devices and processes to produce a result. 


Utility patents are the most common type of patents. Utility patent holders are able to prevent others from making, using or selling these products for 20 years from the filing date.

However, getting a utility patent filed and granted requires dozens of hours of patent attorney time, getting the full 20 requires you pay 3 separate maintenance fees to the USPTO, making utility patents more expensive than others.


Design Patent


A design patent protects a new and original design that applies to useful, manufactured products. Design patents can cover decorative elements, product shapes, packaging, fonts, and other similar design elements.


It’s important to understand that what is being patented is the specific design of an object. You could not simply patent a circle, but if you design a smartphone that is shaped in a circle you could patent your circle-shaped smartphone. You would not get a design patent for a drawing, but you could get a design patent for an object with that drawing featured on it. These last for 15 years and require no maintenance fees after an application is granted.


Plant Patent


Just as the name suggests, you can secure a plant patent for plants you either invent or discover. These plants must be a new kind of plant that can be reproduced “asexually.” This means the plant does not require fertilization from other plants or organisms.


Others may not reproduce, use, or sell any parts of a patent-protected plant for 20 years. You will not pay any maintenance fees over the life of a plant patent.


IP Works Law can Power Your Ideas® through patent protection


Our team at IP Works Law works closely with many incredibly innovative and transcendent people and businesses to ensure their ideas are protected. Whether you are in the early stages of development or are ready to file, contact our team and make sure your ideas have the protection they need to grow and change the world.

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Since 1992, Catherine Cavella, Esq. Her focus on Trademark Law and Copyright Law for the last few decades gives her deep insights into the fundamental principles behind the rules. Catherine regularly writes about new developments in trademark law, copyright law, and internet law.