Utility patents are granted to anyone
who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or
composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. "Process"
means a process or method; new industrial or technical processes may be patented.
"Manufacture" refers to chemical compositions and may include mixtures
of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. A utility patent has a term
of 20 years from the date the patent application was filed. (Recent provisions
give existing patents a term ranging from 17-20 years depending on various factors.)
Design patents are granted to any
person who has invented a new, original and ornamental design for an article of
manufacture. The appearance of the article is protected for a term of 14 years.
Plant patents are granted to any
person who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and
new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly
found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated
state. A plant patent has the same term as a utility patent.
Only the true inventor of the discovery may apply for a patent, but once obtained,
the patent can be sold or mortgaged, just like any other personal property. The
patent holder may also assign part interest in the patent or may grant licenses
to others to make, use, import, and offer to sell or sell the invention.