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Research Guides

What Can Be Patented?

The subject matter of the invention must be useful.   It must have utility, including "operativeness."  In other words, a machine that will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called, useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.

Novelty:  the invention must be new or an improvement.

Non-obvious:  the difference between "existing art" and the invention is significant enough to warrant a patent.

General Information Concerning Patents from the USPTO.

Patent Requirements

  • Complete description of the invention is required.

  • The inventor(s) must be listed.  A company, organization, institution, etc. is not the "inventor."

  • Mere ideas or suggestions are not patentable.

  • All formal elements of the application must be in good order.

  • Fees.

  • Publication of the issued patent, and, in some cases, publication of the patent application.

  • Patent Process Overview (USPTO)

Applying online:  EFS Web

List of Forms

"What Do I Get?" - aka Patent Protection

USPTO Definition:

'The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States.  What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.  Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO."

  • The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is the branch of the federal government that receives and examines patent applications and issues patents.

  • Only the USPTO can grant patents in the United States.  US patents are effective only within the United States and its territories and possessions.

  • An issued patent grants ownership of the patented invention to the applicant.

  • Inventors may assign ownership of the invention/patent to another entity.  This entity, organization, institution, company, corporation, etc. is known as the assigneed.

Flow Chart: Process for Obtaining a Utility Patent

Additional USPTO Resources

Main Patent Portal @ USPTO

Resources and Guidance:  Policies, procedures, guides, tools and manuals associated with the patent process.

AIA (America Invents Act) Guide & Information

Laws, regulations, policies, procedures, guidance & training (USPTO)

Patent FAQs (USPTO)

Track One:  USPTO's Prioritized Patent Examination Program

International Patent Cooperation

Pro Bono Program:  nationwide legal services program


Utility Patent

USPTO definition:

"new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof"

  • Term = 20 years from date of filing
  • Maintenance fees required:  3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years from the date the patent is granted.

General & Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical

US 4,787,847 (Sonicare®)

Guide to Filing a Utility Patent (Non-provisional)

Design Patent

USPTO definition:

"a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture"

  • Term = 14 years from date of issue
  • No maintenance fees required.

US D384,364

Design Patent Application Guide

Plant Patent

USPTO definition:

"granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants"

  • Term = 20 years from date of filing
  • No maintenance fees required.
  • "classical breeding"

US PP9,003

General Information About 35 U.S.C. 161 Plant Patents (Guide to Filing a Plant Patent)