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Patents - Frequently asked questions

What is a patent?

A patent is a right of ownership granted to a person by the government to exclude others from making or selling the claimed invention for a period of twenty years.

You have an idea for an invention, or have gone so far as to create a prototype. Before marketing your invention, you will need to determine if your invention has already been patented.

There are three main types of patents:

  • Utility – granted for the function of something that is mechanical, electrical, chemical, compositional, or any combination of these
  • Design – granted solely on the look or appearance of something
  • Plant – granted for unique, asexually reproduced plants

See general information concerning patents (including how to file an application).

See also: 7-step U.S. patent search strategy (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).