A patent is a property right granted to an inventor "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" their invention in the U.S., or importing their invention into the U.S., according to the language of both the legal statute and the patent grant. This right only excludes, and does not give the right to do any of the above. Enforcing the patent is the responsibility of the inventor/patent owner.
In the U.S., patents are issued at the federal level by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
There are three types of patents:
1) Utility patents, which may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
2) Design patents, which may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
3) Plant patents, which may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant (excluding tubers).
In order to be patented, an invention must meet patentability requirements. It must be new, useful, and non-obvious.
What cannot be patented:
Searching for extant patents is an integral first step towards obtaining one. By searching patent databases, inventors and entrepreneurs can:
What is patent classification?
The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) scheme was developed by the USPTO and EPO in 2013, and has since been adopted by many patent agencies worldwide. The CPC organizes patent technologies into groups based on common subject matter in a hierarchical system. All participants assign patents CPC numbers.
Patent search strategies based on CPC schema are the most reliable. CPC numbers are standardized, grouping together similar concepts that may have different descriptive terms, and remain constant across different countries.
Relying on keywords when searching patents can be unreliable. Some common problems include: