A patent for inventions grants a property right to the inventor. It excludes others from using, making or selling the invention in the United States. The patent system was established to encourage inventions that would be helpful to society. Congress has the power to grant patents, while federal intellectual property laws govern patents. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awards patents for inventions that meet a specific set of criterion.
Three types of patents exist:
- Utility Patents: The most common types of patents are utility patents, which are granted to new chemicals, machines and processes.
- Design Patents: These types of patents are granted to protect the design or unique appearance of manufactured objects.
- Plant Patents: These patents are granted for the invention and asexual reproduction of new plant types.
Items that can receive patents include the following: jewelry; musical instruments; fabrics; computer hardware and software; chemical formulas; drugs; medical devices; and genetically engineered animals, plants or bacteria.