A patent protects new ideas that are “non-obvious,” but there isn’t just one, catch-all patent to encapsulate every new and possibly world-changing idea out there. Instead, there are three different types of patents. Each one is unique and has its own requirements for how to apply and obtain the important legal protections they offer. The three that are available to inventors and companies are utility patents, design patents and plant patents.
Let’s quickly touch on that last one: plant patents. As the name suggests, this is for new and distinctive plants. But they must be asexually reproduced in order to qualify, which simply means they can’t be grown with a seed, but instead are grown by grafting or cutting.
Design patents are for the “surface ornamentation” of a product. So, for example, the look of an iPhone or the canopy of a car. If these things have unique aspects to them that distinguish them in the market, then the ornamentation can be patented and protected.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the first item we listed: utility patents. These are your “general” patents, for lack of a better term. They are the most common, encompassing many different potential ideas. Manufacturing processes, machines, matter, and industrial and technical processes can be protected by a utility patent.
Obtaining any of these patents can be take some time, and the application process for each type is a little different. If you have any questions about the patent process, consult with an attorney.