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Understanding the various types of patents

The purpose of a patent is to protect people who have invented or discovered something new and unique from having someone else take credit for it. Patents help ensure that people can't make money off of your discovery or invention without your authorization.

The road to obtaining a patent begins with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Even if you haven't worked through the details of what you're seeking to patent, you can apply for a provisional patent. This prevents others from patenting the same thing for a year while you determine exactly what you have before you file a non-provisional patent application. When a non-provisional application is filed, the USPTO will then determine whether the discovery or invention is eligible to be protected by a patent.

There are three types of patents:

Utility patents

These are the most common. They cover new machines, processes, compositions of matter (chemical compositions) and manufactures (goods that are made). Utility patents also cover useful improvements to these things.

Plant patents

Yes, some plants can be patented if you have a new or distinctive one. There are some special requirements for seeking a plant patent, e.g., the plant must be reproduced by cutting or grafting (asexually) rather than through seeds.

Design patents

This type of patent protects only the outward appearance or "surface ornamentation" of something, such as its configuration or shape. However, the design and the object must still be inseparable. A person may need to file a design patent to protect an item's look from being used by others and a utility patent to protect the unique way that it functions.

The patent application process can be daunting and confusing. Florida intellectual property attorneys who are experienced in dealing with the USPTO and state authorities can provide assistance and help you protect your hard work and ingenuity from being stolen or misused.

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