What are the Various Types of Patents?

A patent protects a new idea, discovery, or invention which are non-obvious and new. You might not know it, but there are different types of patents. Each patent type has its eligibility requirements and protects a particular type of discovery or invention.

However, it is also possible for a potential discovery or invention to have two types of patents available. For instance, a person can invent an object and apply for a patent for both the object’s design and its functional features.

In such a case, the inventor has to apply for two different patents: both a design and utility patent. So read on to find an overview of the different patent types that you can find in United States law.

Let’s begin.

Types of patents

The different types of patents allow investors to protect several kinds of inventions. Intelligent inventors know how to utilize the types of patent applications to secure their rights and protect their inventions.

Common types of inventions include utility (how products function), design (how products look), and plant (creation of new species of plants) patents. Some other types include provisional and business method patents.

In some cases, there is also a software patent. For example, let’s say you live in Arkansas and create a program on how a computer process works and its desired results.

The patent eligibility for such an invention might lack a proper definition, so in such a case, you would need Arkansas patent attorneys to help you find out if you can patent your invention.

Under U.S. laws, there are three major types of patents. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Utility patent

Utility patents are the most common patent type that people usually apply for. This patent covers matter composition, processes, manufacturers, and machines, which are valuable and new.

You can also get a utility patent for valuable and new improvements to existing matter composition, processes, manufacturers and machines. Matter compositions refer to chemical compositions, including new chemical compounds or a mixture of ingredients.

Meanwhile, processes refer to methods or acts of doing something. This usually involves a technical or industrial process.

Different types of creative works may qualify for a utility patent. For instance, biological inventions (new chemical formulas), industrial and houseware machines, and food inventions. Also included are electrical innovations like electronic circuits, cosmetics, computer software, computer peripherals, and hardware.

So, when you get a patent for your invention, you can prevent other persons from using, making, importing, and selling your creations. The prohibition that comes with a patent is very valuable. It allows you to have an exclusive market to sell your invention. Moreover, utility patents usually last for about 20 years from the date you filed the patent application.

  • Plant patents

Plants patents are the least frequently issued patent types. This patent is given to any non-obvious and novel asexually reproducible plant. Generally, people who apply for plant patents are agricultural experts or research scientists.

You can obtain plant patents to protect distinctive and new plants. To get this patent, you must asexually reproduce the plant or find the plant in an uncultivated state, and the plant shouldn’t be a tuber propagated plant like the Irish potato.

Asexual reproduction means the plant is reproduced by cutting or grafting instead of being reproduced with a seed. Some asexual reproduction methods of getting a genetic copy of a plant can be employed. For example, it might include cultivating several plants to get a hybrid or mutant or a newly found seedling.

Plant patents need asexual reproduction. This is to show that the patent application can reproduce the plant. Plant patents protect the inventor by ensuring other businesses or investors don’t create the plant or profit from it for about 20 years from the application date.

  • Design patents

A design patent is the surface ornamentation of an object. This could include the configuration or the shape of the object. To get this patent, the design has to be entangled with the object.

Though the design and the object are usually inseparable, design patents only protect the object’s appearance. However, if you wish to protect the structural and functional features of the object, then you need to file for a utility patent.

When an original or new design is created that ornaments a manufactured device, you would also be able to apply for a design patent. You should also know that design patents are relatively less common than utility patents.

After getting a design patent, you can prevent others from importing, selling, using or making the design. This patent is usually enforced for about 14 years after the issue date.

Other patents

Apart from the three major patent types, there are also other types. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Provisional patent

A provisional patent provides more time for you to have your regular patent fully. However, the invention will be called patent pending after receiving a provisional patent.

So, within the next 12 months of receiving the provisional patent, you must file for a regular patent application. Small business owners can file for a provisional patent for a bit of cost. However, it can cost some thousand dollars for a more involved application.

  • Business method patent

This patent is a part of the utility patents. It protects a business method usually combined with technology and results in new ways of doing business.

A business method patent takes about two to three years from the application filing date to be issued. The time gap between the application and patent issuance is known as the pendency period.

Patent owners cannot prevent competitors from using the process during the pendency period. This is irrespective of whether the competitor independently came across it or copied it purposefully.

You can only prevent the competitor from using or selling the process after you have been issued a patent. The patent is usually valid for 20 years from the filing date.


A patent is a legal right given to every inventor for their creations. This patent right is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and other intellectual property rights to its citizens. A patent right gives an exclusive right to use, replicate, and sell the patented invention without obtrusion from other people who want to do the same.

In exchange, the issuing body has the right to publish the invention details. Patents are usually given for a limited time. For example, it could be 20 years from the date of application for utility and plant patents or 14 to 15 years for design patents.

The patents given by the US government can only cover the invention within the country. So, if you wish to extend it to other countries, you need to apply with the governing body of that country.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.