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ENGR 195: Foundations in Engineering Leadership

Engineering Librarian

Paula C Johnson's picture
Paula C Johnson
Main Library A403

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What is a patent?

A patent is the intellectual property right granted by the U.S. Government to an inventor "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the U.S. or importing the invention into the U.S." for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. In most cases, this is twenty years from the date of application. In some situations, the term of the patent may be extended due to delays in the processing of the application. After the patent has expired, the invention becomes public domain. In addition, patent owners must pay a maintenance fee at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after issue or else the patent will expire.

How to Read a U.S. Patent from Queen's University Library provides a detailed description of the sections of a U.S. patent.

Patent types

Utility patent: Describes a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or useful improvement thereof (i.e. what something does)

Design patent: A new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture (i.e. how something looks)

Plant patent: Describes an asexually reproduced distinct and new variety of plant (e.g. ‘NuMex Heritage 6-4’ New Mexican Chile Pepper)