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Patents protect inventors from intellectual property theft

A couple weeks back, we discussed the three most important legal protections for an individual or business’ intellectual property. Specifically, trademarks, copyrights and patents. Now we will begin drilling deeper down into each of these, beginning with patents.

A patent is the right of an inventor to prevent anyone else from producing, selling or using the invention for a limited period of time. The U.S. Constitution grants the power to grant patents to Congress. Thus, federal law governs the patent system.

To qualify for a patent, an invention must be “novel” and “nonobvious.” By “novel,” patent law means the invention is different from similar inventions in at least one of its parts, and it must never have been publicly used, sold or patented by another inventor within a year of the application. An invention is “nonobvious” when someone skilled in the invention’s field would consider the invention to be an unexpected or surprising development.

There are three forms of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant patents.

Utility patents are the most commonly granted form. They are used to protect new machines, chemicals and processes. A design patent, on the other hand, protects an inventor’s unique design or appearance, such as how the product is decorated or designed.

As the name implies, plant patents are for development and asexual reproduction of a distinct plant variety, such as a new hybrid. In this context, “asexual reproduction” means reproduction not from seeds, i.e. grafting of rooting of cuttings.

A patent can help a business turn its invention into profits. For help filing for a patent, please speak to an intellectual property lawyer.

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