A patent publication type grant means that your patent application has been accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a utility or design patent. This indicates that you have successfully answered all office actions submitted by the agency and will be granted a patent. This is sometimes called a letters patent or issued patent. The patent gives you the right to seek legal action against others who infringe on the protected invention. Patent applications are subject to detailed investigation by examiners before these rights are granted or denied.

Applying for a Patent

If you have an invention, you can file a non-provisional or provisional application for patent protection with the USPTO. The difference depends on the amount of information you want to disclose about your invention. If you file a provisional application, you have a year to provide complete disclosure about your invention, after which point the application will become non-provisional.

During the application process, you do not have the rights of a patent holder and may not prevent third parties from using or making the invention through legal action. In this phase, your application will be assigned a tracking number used by the USPTO. This is a two-digit number, typically 09, 10, or 11, followed by a hash mark and another six-digit number.

Utility Patents

This category makes up 90 percent of patents granted. This type of patent protects an invention's functional components. Some types of inventions covered by utility patents include:

  • Compositions
  • Processes
  • Machines
  • Methods
  • Manufactured items with a specific use
  • Improvements to any of these items

When reviewing a utility patent, examiners consider whether the function of the invention is specific, novel, and not obvious to someone with reasonable skill and knowledge in the industry in question.

After filing your utility patent application, you can mark your invention with patent pending to provide a disclaimer. Third parties who use a patent-pending invention may be subject to damages if the patent application is successful. When your patent is issued, you have the legal right to sue others who use, distribute, sell, or make your invention without permission.

Utility patents are good for 20 years from the application file date. In certain cases, you may be able to extend the life of your patent. Inventors must pay initial fees as well as ongoing maintenance fees to keep patents valid.

While utility patents make it very difficult for competitors to copy the function of your invention and successfully protects you against infringement, they can be costly to obtain, take up to three years to be issued, and do not protect an invention's design unless it has a use.

Design Patents

Design patents are granted to protect an invention's decoration, design, shape, or other elements of its appearance. The design in question must be non-functional since useful designs are covered by utility patents.

As with utility patents, the examiner will determine whether your design is not obvious, specific, and novel. If you want to protect both the utility and design of your invention, you'll have to file two separate patent applications.

To apply for a design patent, you'll need to describe the unique aspects of the invention's appearance and provide images or sketches.

Design patents last 14 years and, unlike utility patents, are not subject to maintenance fees. In addition to being more affordable, they can usually be obtained more quickly than can utility patents.

Patent Cooperation Treaty Applications

You can apply for a patent with many participating countries through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). You submit one application that will be reviewed by your choice of more than 140 nations. However, each individual patent office is responsible for issuing an actual patent in that country.

PCT publication numbers start with WO, followed by a two-digit year, publication number, and A followed by a number that indicates the publication number (A1, A2, etc.).

Keep in mind that when your patent is granted, the application number remains unchanged. If you search the application number in the database, your patent will not be listed as issued. Instead, you will receive a new patent number that is used exclusively for the granted patent.

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