A U.S. patent is an intellectual property right “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States,” in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
Three types of patents are available, including:
- Utility patents cover any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
- Design patents cover a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
- Plant patents cover any distinct and new variety of plant.
The term for utility and plant patents is 20 years from the earliest effective U.S. filing date. See http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2701.html
The term for design patents is 14 years from the date of grant. See http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s1502.html