There are three types of U. S. patents: utility, design, and plant. The utility patent is the most common type of patent as it is the patent which protects unique inventions. Each type of patent has its own numbering scheme.
Utility patents are completely numerical: 3,245,600
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. The term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
Design patents have the letter D before the number: D341,326
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Design patents are good for 14 years from the filing date.
Plant patents have the letters PP before the number: PP06,70
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct/new variety of plants. The term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
To be eligible for a patent, an invention must be:
NEW - not known or used by others in this country or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country
USEFUL - Must have a purpose and operate to perform the intended purpose.
UNOBVIOUS - Must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before and not obvious to someone skilled in the art of the technology related to the invention.
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