There are three main types of patents applied for through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). These include the Utility Patent, the Design Patent and the Plant Patent. A fourth patent type is available, which is the Reissue Patent application, but this type of application is used to correct an error in an already issued patent.
A Utility Patent is issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof. It permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the patent application filing date.
A Design Patent is issued for a new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. It permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fourteen years from the date of patent grant.
A Plant Patent is issued for a new and distinct, invented or discovered asexually reproduced plant including cultivated spores, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. It permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the plant for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing.