A patent is a proprietary right granted by federal government. There are three types of patents available in United States

  1. utility patent, which covers the functional aspects of products and processes.
  2. design patent, which covers the ornamental designs of useful objects
  3. a plant patent, which covers a new variety of living plants

Each confers the “right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or offering for sale” the invention in United States or importing the invention to United States. Generally speaking, when one speaks of “patent” generically, the reference is to a utility patent. Again generally speaking if a design patent are being discussed the qualifying terms, “design” or “plant” are almost universally included in the discussion. It is quite notable that patents do not protect idea, but rather protect invention that exhibits subject matter deemed allowable. In other words, any exclusive rights you obtain can only protect something that is considered patent eligible. Generally speaking, in the United States the view of what is eligible for protection has historically been quite broad. Machines, compounds and processes are all eligible, for example.

Even living organisms that have been genetically engineered in a laboratory can be protected. Business method are also eligible for protection in United States. Software is likewise eligible, although obtaining a software patents in United States is not easy as it once was and the application you must file will need comprehensive discussion of underlying technology. Even some man made DNA can be detected.

What right does a patent grant?

The grant confers, “the right to exclude others from making,using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States” and its territories and possessions for which the term of the patent shall be 2o years from the date on which the application was for the patent was filed in United States or from the date of earliest such application was filed.

A Patent does not give unlimited rights

A patentee, merely because he/she has received a patent for an invention, is not thereby authorized to make, use, offer for sale, or sell, or import the invention if doing so would violate any law. An inventor of a new automobile who has obtained a patent thereon would not be entitled to use the patented automobile in violation of the laws of a State requiring a license, nor may a patentee sell an article, the sale of which may be forbidden by a law, merely because a patent has been obtained. Neither may a patentee make, use, offer for sale or sell or import, his or her invention if doing so would infringe the prior rights of others. A patentee may not violate the Federal antitrust laws, such as by resale price agreements or entering into combination in restraints of trade, or the pure food and drug laws, by virtue of having a patent. Ordinarily, there is nothing which prohibits a patentee from making, using, offering for sale, or selling, or importing his/her own invention, unless he/she thereby infringes another’s patent which is still in force.

Patent Expiration

After the patent has expired anyone may make, use, offer for sale or sell or import the invention without the permission of the patentee provided that matter covered by unexpired patent is not used. The terms may be extended for certain pharmaceuticals and for certain circumstance as provided by law.