The US patent system provides two types of patents to protect various types of ideas: design patents and utility patents. A design patent does not protect functionality; rather, it protects the “look and feel” of a product. Utility patents, on the other hand, protect inventions—whether completely new concepts or enhancements to old ones. The innovation might be a machine, a manufacturing technique, a novel composition or chemical compound, or a combination of these three. Nevertheless, utility patents may only be issued to innovations that meet certain conditions, and functioning is one of those criteria.

A utility patent may only be awarded for unique and useful discoveries; enhancements to prior inventions must also be non-obvious and significant in order to be eligible for patent protection. The concept of novelty is simple: it bans the patenting of existing or non-unique ideas and inventions. Nevertheless, most patent applications are rejected based on novelty rather than usefulness or functioning, thus doing a patent search will assist ensure that your idea is unique.

The utility criterion requires that an innovation have a particular purpose and that it functions to meet that aim. To meet this criteria, inventors must be as accurate and comprehensive as possible while completing the patent application. Any adjustments must also be significant, which implies that any new additions must provide a genuine and noticeable advantage; even a seemingly minor design change that reduces a machine’s energy use may qualify as substantial. Typically, the inventor must build a case for the patent by showing proof of its relevance, therefore be comprehensive and specific while applying.
According to the USPTO, utility patents account for 90% of all granted patents. The utility patent is also the most costly and time-consuming to obtain. It may cost up to $10,000 to finish the procedure, which can take up to five years. Since the patent application procedure is so complicated, many inventors apply for provisional patents, which provide some protection while the patent application is being processed. At this period, the invention is patent-pending. The provisional patent provides innovators with a much-needed extension of time to develop the invention while releasing the product without danger of loss or theft.

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