What is a patent?
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides protection to the patent owner for a limited period, generally 20 years.
The most common type of patent is a utility patent. To qualify for a utility patent application, an invention must be:
- A process or method for producing a useful, concrete and tangible result (such as a genetic engineering procedure, an investment strategy, computer software or a process for conducting e-commerce on the Internet).
- A machine, usually with moving parts or circuitry (such as a cigarette lighter, sewage treatment system, laser or photocopier).
- An article of manufacture (such as an eraser, tire, transistor or hand tool).
- A composition of matter (such as a chemical composition, drug, soap or genetically altered lifeform).
- An improvement of an invention that fits within one of the first four categories.
Some types of inventions will not qualify for a utility patent, no matter how interesting or important they are. For example, mathematical formulas, laws of nature, newly discovered substances that occur naturally in the world, and purely theoretical phenomena have long been considered unpatentable. This means, for example, that you can’t patent a general mathematical approach to problem solving or a newly discovered skin lotion found in its natural state.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2014 decision, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, had a dramatic impact on software patents and continues to cause uncertainty over the eligibility of software for patent protection. The Alice decision has made it more challenging to prove that software claims are more than an unpatentable “abstract idea.” Keyhani LLC has extensive experience litigating and successfully defending the validity of software patents in federal court litigation post-Alice.
A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. A design patent may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation. Design patents protect the ornamental features of the item, not the function. Thus, the design for an article of manufacture that is dictated primarily by its function cannot be the subject of a design patent.
A plant patent is granted to an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. The patent protects the inventor’s right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the patented plant.