If you find yourself asking, “What is the meaning of patents,” then you’re likely unfamiliar with the process of patenting an invention. A patent is an intellectual property (IP) right that grants you, as the patent holder, exclusive right over your invention. Therefore, only you can manufacture, use, and sell your invention.

Applying for a Patent

In order to patent an invention, you’ll visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. This website will provide you with all of the information you need to submit your patent application. Before you choose to submit a patent application, however, you’ll want to do your research. First, you want to ensure that the invention meets the criteria to be patented. The invention itself must be novel, useful, and non-obvious. All three criteria must be met or else you risk having your application rejected.

Also, one of the most important things to do before even getting started on your patent application is to run a patent search. The USPTO website has a search database that will identify any prior issued patents on your invention, whether it be exact or similar in nature. In addition to searching this website, you’ll also want to search in the public domain. If you feel as though you might want assistance with running these searches, you can hire a patent researcher to help. These researchers generally charge $200 to help you run searches on prior issued patents.

Kinds of Patents

Design patents. This type of patent provides protection on the appearance, or design, of the invention. Design patents are less expensive, easier to patent, and usually more successful at earning patent protection. A design patent lasts for a period of 14 years. Keep in mind that design patents aren’t as effective as utility patents, as the design of an invention can be changed quite often.

Utility patents. This type of patent protects the method and function of the invention. This type of patent application will be more time-consuming and complex, as you, an inventor, must explain how the invention is to be used. This type of patent is also more expensive and difficult to obtain. A lot of inventors find it helpful to hire a licensed patent attorney to assist in the utility patent application. An advantage of having this type of patent over a design patent is the fact that the utility patent has expansive coverage over the invention, and it is a lot more difficult to change a method or system of an invention. This type of patent protection lasts for a period of 20 years.

Plant patents. This type of patent protects a new breed of plant. This patent also lasts for a period of 20 years.

Correcting or Amending a Patent

After you submit your patent application, the USPTO may require that you correct certain information that was provided in your application. Alternatively, after you’ve obtained a patent, you may notice some sort of error in the patent. If this is the case, then the USPTO might issue a certificate that corrects a clerical error that was made in the patent. Most commonly, the errors are typographical ones or minor errors that are made by the applicant in their application. So long as the error doesn’t change the invention in any way, the USPTO will issue the certificate. Depending on the type of error, the USPTO may or may not charge a nominal fee for the issuance of the certificate.

If you, as an inventor, want to remove one or more claims that were on your patent application, you can file a disclaimer with the USPTO.

If the patent is defective in any way, you can apply to have the patent reissued. The reissued patent will only be valid for the unexpired term of the original patent. The time cannot be added on to the current term of the patent.

If you want to add new claims or new issues to your patent, you cannot do so. However, you can file a request to have the patent re-examined. You’ll need to pay a fee to have the USPTO re-examine your patent. But you cannot alter your invention and add in new claims. You can only have the office re-examine if you believe that any items were omitted or left out of your current invention.

If you need help with learning more about the patent process, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.