A patent is a written document that gives the right of property to an inventor over a product or process that offers a new technical solution to a problem.

There are three types of patents:

  1. Utility Patents.
  2. Design Patents.
  3. Plant Patents.   

Utility patents

Utility patents protect new and useful inventions or improvements to existing ones. A utility patent can cover a process, a machine, or a composition of matter. This patent essentially helps people learn how to use a new machine, process, or system. 

In order to qualify for a utility patent, an inventor must have created a new product or process that is not already on the market. The subject matter of a utility patent must be useful to people in the present. This strand of utility can cover new biological or chemical formulas, processes, or procedures.

Utility patents are the strongest forms of protection, but they can be difficult to obtain. It also typically takes 2-3 years to receive a utility patent. Once obtained, the applicant may also be able to exclude others from using, manufacturing, or selling their invention for twenty years hence utility patents are granted for a minimum of twenty years, from the date of filing.

Utility patents are the most common type of patents, accounting for 90% of the total issued in the United States. There are over eleven million of these issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A utility patent has a claims section and can be very broad, depending on the claim language. Because of their broad scope, they are the most common type of patent.

In applying for a utility patent, you can have provisional utility or non-provisional utility applications. A provisional utility application is filed with the USPTO and protects an invention for 12 months before a formal patent application is filed. The idea is to protect an invention while securing time for an inventor to refine the invention and test commercial validity before embarking on the time-consuming and costly process of filing a formal application. The 12-month period cannot be extended and upon its effluxion, the applicant has to apply for a non-provisional utility application or forfeit securing patent protection for the invention. Because of its brief nature, it is less costly than a formal patent application.

A non-provisional utility application is the standard utility patent application. The key difference between a provisional utility application and a non-provisional utility application is that the former never matures into a patent, while the latter (non-provisional utility applications) are examined and if allowable, can become an issued patent.

Design patents

A design patent protects ornamental features or the look of an object, rather than its function. It protects only the appearance of the article and not the structural or utilitarian features of the object. For instance, an application for a design patent for a computer mouse would cover the shape of the device rather than its functionality. For the patent to be granted, the product must be original and non-obvious and must have a distinct design. While the process for obtaining a design patent is similar to that of obtaining a utility patent, the application process is shorter and therefore will usually cost less than a utility patent.

However, the application process for a design patent but the process is still long and complex. In addition to clear and detailed drawings, applicants must also submit several angles of their invention to the USPTO. In some cases, black and white photographs may be substituted for drawings, but only if they’re the only practical medium for illustrating the invention. 

A design patent is awarded when a new, non-obvious design can protect an item. You cannot obtain a design patent if your design has been copied from another designer or company. Unlike utility patents, design patents protect the appearance of a product, but do not protect its functionality. 

According to the USPTO, design patents last for 15 years for applications filed after May 13, 2015. For applications filed before May 13, 2015, patents last for 14 years from the date of the filing.

Design patents don’t require maintenance fees.

Plant patents

A plant patent protects a new variety of asexually reproducing plant. Asexual reproduction has been defined by the USPTO to as the propagation of a plant without the use of fertilized seeds to assure an exact genetic copy of the plant being reproduced. 

Patents on plants can cover many different methods of propagation. For example, a plant patent can cover a method of replanting a plant without using seeds. In addition, a plant patent can cover methods of propagation without seeds, such as layering, budding, and grafting. 

A plant patent can protect new varieties of plants, including hybrids and sports, seedlings, mutants, and cultivars. The new variety must be novel and distinct from others to qualify. This patent entitles the owner to exclude others from producing, using, or selling the plant.  

There are many ways to use plant patents. A plant patent may protect a genetically modified orange tree that produces fruit twice as large as normal citrus fruits. Plant patents can cover both the design and functionality of an orange tree. For instance, a genetically altered orange tree might be eligible for a utility patent covering the process of creating the fruit. It may also receive a plant patent for aesthetic purposes.

Plant patents, however, are rarely granted. They are not as common as design and utility patents, and make up only a small portion of all patents issued by the USPTO. Moreover, they will only cover plants that reproduce and are capable of reproducing themselves.

A plant patent plant typically includes drawings of the plant and details of its characteristics. Plant patents are published 18 months after filing and last for 20 years from the date of filing the application and like design patents, they do not require any maintenance fees.

Determining the right Patent Application

The three types of patents differ in the scope of protection that each type provides. When you are thinking about a patent application, you should consider whether you need a utility patent or a design patent.

A utility patent protects an invention’s functionality, while a design patent protects the aesthetic appearance of an object. If you’re looking for a patent for a new product, a utility patent may be your best bet.

Additionally, there are instances in which utility and design patents may be applied for simultaneously. This happens usually in instances where a person invents an object and wants to patent both the functional features and the design of the object.

Choosing Utility patents over design patents

If you’re thinking of starting a business and want to protect your inventions, there are three distinct types of patents that offer various levels of security: design patents, plant patents, and utility patents. Understanding which type is suitable for you is essential.

1. Utility patents are the most common type of patent

Utility patents are the most common type of patent, providing inventors with exclusive rights to their invention for a specified period and prohibiting others from profiting from it. Utility patents typically grant for inventions or discoveries which are deemed novel, useful, and non-obvious.

To apply for a utility patent, you must first file an application with the USPTO. This application should include a specification, claims, and drawings.

Your utility patent claims should precisely describe the invention you wish to protect. These assertions will be examined by the USPTO to guarantee they are valid and pertain to the invention you are seeking to patent.

Once a patent examiner certifies your claims as meeting the criteria for patentability, you will receive official approval of your application. With this patent in hand, you have exclusive rights to prevent others from selling or manufacturing your invention in the United States.

Utility patents are an invaluable asset for entrepreneurs. They grant you the rights to prevent others from profiting off of your invention, making starting a business much simpler and more successful.

A utility patent can be granted for any machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or process that is deemed novel and useful – from computers to lawnmowers.

Utility patents also encompass business method patents, which protect methods of conducting business. These inventions tend to be complex and may need the assistance of a patent attorney in order to be successfully secured.

Finally, design patents are granted to safeguard the unique visual appearance of manufactured objects such as surface ornamentation or overall design. These types of patents can be particularly helpful in safeguarding a product’s design, which in turn helps influence consumer purchasing decisions.

2. They are the most expensive type of patent

The most costly type of patent is the utility patent, which makes up more than 90% of all grants granted by the USPTO. These patents protect new inventions that are both useful and non-obvious.

To receive a patent, an inventor must fill out an extensive application and demonstrate their creation meets certain criteria. These necessities include novelty, usefulness, and substantial improvement.

Utility patents cover a wide variety of inventions, such as new machines and processes. This type of patent also extends protection to improvements to existing products so long as they are non-obvious and substantial enough for claim protection.

A utility patent contains a comprehensive description of the invention, along with drawings that demonstrate its workings. These elements are essential to ensure that anyone producing similar goods without permission will infringe upon your IP rights.

Another essential part of a utility patent is the claims, which are the specific elements claimed by an inventor as their own. To ensure reasonable protection, experienced legal counsel is recommended in crafting these claims.

Typically, patent applications are submitted in two stages: a provisional application and an official one. The provisional application gives you legal permission to utilize your invention while the patent application is being reviewed.

Once your application is complete, you can submit it for approval. Unlike design patents which must be submitted after the design has been finalized, a utility patent may be submitted while the inventor is still working on creating their product.

If your invention is particularly complex, it may be worthwhile to pursue both a utility patent and design patent. Doing so can give you greater flexibility in the future since a design patent may only cover part of what you have created.

Utility patents are the most costly type of patent, yet they can be one of the most valuable forms of intellectual property worldwide. This is because it grants you a limited period of time to protect your invention and prevent others from using it without permission.

3. They are the least enforceable type of patent

In order to be granted a patent, an invention must be “usable” or “patentable.” This implies that it should be capable of operation by someone and have practical and beneficial uses. While this requirement may seem broad in theory, certain inventions require more proof than others that they can actually be operated.

Furthermore, utility patents must be filed within one year of an inventor’s provisional application; otherwise, the invention will lose its filing date and become public knowledge. Having an experienced attorney on board who knows how to handle patent applications efficiently and cost-effectively can save you both time and money by ensuring your invention is adequately safeguarded.

Another type of patent is a design patent, which safeguards the aesthetic and ornamental features of an invention. These patents are typically issued faster than utility patents and can help companies expand their intellectual property portfolio as well as prevent unauthorized sales, knock-offs, and counterfeits.

In general, a design patent is more permissive than its utility counterpart. It can be utilized to safeguard designs for machines, compositions of matter or processes that are novel and non-obvious.

This type of protection can save an inventor time and money, since they do not need to go through the extensive and expensive examination process that utility patents go through. This is especially helpful for startups or smaller businesses with limited resources for investing in their patent strategy.

It is essential to remember, however, that design patents do not replace utility patents since they do not offer the same level of protection. Furthermore, design patents only last 14 years.

A utility patent and design patent differ in that they prioritize function over aesthetics and ornamentation. Therefore, consulting an experienced Orange County patent lawyer for guidance on which type of protection is most suitable for your invention is highly recommended.

4. They are the least flexible type of patent

Utility patents are the most common type of patent, providing property rights to new inventions. These rights include the power to prevent others from making, using or selling a product covered by the patent for an extended period.

A patent can be issued for many inventions, such as machines, manufactures, compositions of matter or processes. As the subject matter can be vastly varied, working with an experienced lawyer when filing a patent application is highly recommended.

For instance, you may have designed a device that is flexible enough to be folded or bent without damaging its internal components. This innovation is protected by a utility patent and could serve as an excellent way to build brand equity while safeguarding your investment.

Utility patents can give you an advantage over competitors, but it’s important not to become complacent about your legal position. Having an Orange County intellectual property attorney on board can help you avoid costly litigation in the future.

In addition to safeguarding your hard work and intellectual capital, an Orange County patent attorney can also give you insight into the laws that govern your business. From deciding whether or not to pursue a patent application, to identify which types of intellectual property should be safeguarded and how best to do so, an experienced lawyer will guarantee your business is properly insured.

Utility patents are the most common type of patent, though they can be complex to acquire and require significant resources. If you or someone close to you has invented something truly innovative, consider filing for a patent as soon as possible.


If you’re unsure about which to apply for, consider consulting an attorney before filing the patent application. In most cases, it is best to file a design patent first before filing for a utility patent. However, the final decision between utility and design patents will likely come during the patent evaluation process.