Original inventions and ideas are a driving force in our modern economy. A single innovation can make the difference between astounding successes or bankruptcy, as Fortune 500 giants like Apple have proven.
Yet, monetizing an invention is not as easy as simply having a sellable idea. Protecting your original creations is paramount and this is why patenting them is such an important part of being a successful inventor.
In 2017 alone, inventors worldwide filed for over 3.1 million patents.
There is just one catch: Patents are complicated to file.
Patents do not allow for mistakes and have to follow specific guidelines. Also, there are numerous types of patents out there. Choosing the wrong one can cost you time and money, not to mention the rights to your original invention.
In this article, we’ll go into some detail into the different types of patents and how you can choose the right one for your invention.
What Are the Different Types of Patents?
Types of patents exist to protect specific aspects of inventions. Not all inventions are the same after all. Some inventions improve on existing items, others just change their appearance and there are some that do both. There are also inventions that are whole new items, never used or seen before by the general public.
So, how do you know which patent type to choose for your invention?
To decide that it is best we look into what types of patents you get to choose from.
In the US we have three main types of patents:
A utility patent is all about an original invention’s unique practical application. These inventions need to have either new parts, or a whole new functionality. A special kind of bolt, a new type of plastic or a blender that has an original motor. These are the kinds of inventions that would need a utility patent.
If your invention does not change the way an already existing item is being used, but only changes the appearance of it, then you need a design patent. A new shape of carpet, an original pattern on cups or a funky new chair shape would all need a design patent.
This is a slightly odd one, but original plants created through horticulture can get their own patent. These are not plants that have been genetically modified. They have to be asexually reproduced and should not be tuber plants. Some varieties of roses have patents.
These might seem simple enough at a first glance, but it takes an expert to determine in which category each invention belongs. Some innovative ideas need more than one type of patent. Sadly, some ideas won’t be worth patenting at all.
Patents are expensive, so deciding exactly what type you need can save you a lot of grief. Thankfully, there are patent procurement experts out there that can make this as easy as possible for you.
How to Choose the Right Types of Patents
Depending on your invention, you have to decide what kind of patent to file for.
There are two reasons why you should not just make a rash, quick choice:
- Patents are expensive. A utility patent can range from USD 10,000-15,000, while a design patent can cost you as much as USD 2,500. You certainly don’t want to waste that money.
- Patents can be declined. If your idea wasn’t deemed worthy of a patent your application can be declined, wasting a lot of your time and energy.
Once a patent has been filed, it will be checked and thoroughly scrutinized by patent examiners. These professionals will decide whether your invention deserves a patent. They will determine if your idea is original enough to warrant protection and they can also decline your petition.
How can you avoid going through all this trouble for nothing?
Well, this is what patent attorneys are there for.
Patent attorneys have all the necessary experience and ability to research whether your invention is worth applying a patent for.
By getting the opinion of a professional, you can avoid wasting time and money.
Not only that, but you can also get advice on what type of patent to file for.
Getting your own patent might be starting to seem like a big headache right now, but with the right guidance, it can be a worthwhile investment. Just think of the hula hoop patent. Such a simple idea and it made so much money.
In case you feel like you need more time, there is one final type of patent that might be perfect for you: Provisional Patents.
What Is a Provisional Patent and Why Do You Need One?
Worried that you may need more time before making your final decision?
It is understandable that all this bureaucracy can be quite intimidating.
Thankfully, the US has predicted the need for inventors to take some extra time to file for an official patent. This is why provisional patents exist.
Investment expert Tamara Monosof, author of Your Million Dollar Dream: Regain Control & Be Your Own Boss, advises that inventors who want to protect their ideas early, while giving themselves time to consider an official utility patent application, need to consider filing a provisional patent as early as possible.
Provisional patents can protect your invention for a whole year before you file for an official, long-term patent.
A provisional patent is a perfect solution for protecting your idea as you prepare your detailed utility patent file.
You might think this protection is unneeded, but patent infringement is a real danger, especially if your idea is particularly good.
The worst part is that the better your invention, the greater the danger of infringement. This is why filing a provisional patent might be a very good idea for you.
Provisional patents exist mostly for you to prepare for your utility patent applications.
Utility Patents 101
The most common type of patent is a utility patent.
These are the kind of patents most people think of when they hear the word “patent”. They can cover any type of invention, from software to a tiny little switch inside a large machine.
Utility patents are long and extremely detailed documents. They contain exact pictures, graphics and exhaustive written descriptions of your idea.
The main use of this kind of patent is to inform the public on how exactly your invention works and what it looks like.
Utility patents are protected by congress.
To be worthy of a patent of this kind, your invention needs to be not obvious to others in the same field. So, it can’t just be anything that hasn’t been already patented. It has to be an original and innovative idea that changes something significantly enough.
Usually, utility patents are about:
- Machines: Items like computers count as machines for patents.
- Processes: These include software and things like industrial or technical processes.
- Compositions of Matter: Usually includes new types of chemicals invented or an original mixture/recipe of ingredients.
- Manufactures: Everything that is being manufactured can count for this one.
An invention can, of course, belong to more than one of these categories. A utility patent can also be awarded for a significant improvement made on an already existing item.
Finally, there are also additional types of patents that are worth knowing about.
Additional Types of Patents
There are a few more types of patents that are good to know about. These include:
- Reissue Applications: If your current patent application is considered defective and needs to be fixed, the reissue application will help you do so.
- Continuation Application: If you had a new idea you want to add to your existing patent application, then the continuation application is what you need.
- Divisional Application: A patent examiner might determine your invention needs more than one patent. A patent can’t contain more than one invention after all.
There is also the Statutory Invention Registration (SIR), which protects your invention from being patented by others.
Dealing with the bureaucracy of patenting is quite complicated. Nonetheless, patents and the innovation they protect are a driving force of the modern economy, so if you have a great idea, you should not hesitate.
Getting the advice and help of a professional can make all the difference between a successful patent and a paperwork disaster. In the end, a patent attorney will save you time and money, while also making the patent application a lot easier for you.