A patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is usually twenty years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. The right of a patent is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States. Basically, a patent gives the owner the right to a monopoly on the use and sell of the invention for a specific period of time.
To be patentable, an invention must be novel, nonobvious and described for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention. In addition, the invention must be claimed in clear and specific terms.
To qualify for patent protection, an invention does not have to be totally new. It can be an improvement on existing items or methods. Even a small functional or decorative improvement may be patentable. Utility patents may be granted for a process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
Design patents may be granted for the ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.