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What is a Patent? The Patent finds its origins in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, which grants Congress the power to "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The granting of a patent is essentially a limited government monopoly given to inventors as an incentive to advance mankind’s technological progress. A patent gives exclusive rights to exploit an invention as the inventor/owner sees fit.  A patent grants an extraordinarily powerful economic and competitive advantage to its holder.

The 3 Types of Patents. 

1. Utility Patents

Typically, a utility patent's life is 20 years from the date of filing of the application. This is one of the most common types of patents.  Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof (this even includes prior patented inventions.

2. Design Patents

Design patents protect the ornamental features of an invention and have a term of 14 years from the date of issuance. The role of the draftsman is critical with design patent applications since it is what is drawn that is claimed.  Typically, design patents are granted more easily than Utility Patents.

3. Plant Patents

Even certain elements of nature are patentable.  A plant patent may be issued to an inventor for protecting plants that reproduce asexually (without seeds). Such plants must be distinct, and amount to a brand to variety of plant.  Typically, subject matter that otherwise naturally exists (i.e., without interference from human beings) is un-patentable.  Like Utility Patents, the term of protection is 20 years.

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