Compare Patent Protection Types - Learn which Patent You Need for Your Invention

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Q: Which type of patent protection do I need for my invention?

When inventors talk about patents, they're usually referring to a utility patent. That's because utility patents cover the most common types of inventions -- those producing some sort of useful function or result. Utility patents give the owner the right to prevent others from using, manufacturing, or selling the invention for 20 years.

Click here to start a Utility Patent Application

Provisional Application for Patent: The review process for a utility patent typically takes up to 3 years, or even more. But to help inventors begin protecting their inventions sooner, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers a faster, more affordable option called a Provisional Application for Patent.

A Provisional Application grants you an immediate priority filing date. Once your Provisional Application is received by the USPTO, you have the right to label your invention "patent pending" for 12 months. Most importantly, you can later (within 12 months) file a Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application that claims your original priority filing date (the date that the USPTO received your Provisional Application for Patent).
Click here to start a Provisional Application for Patent.

Design Patents: As the name suggests, design patents protect purely artistic or ornamental designs of and for manufactured items. These are designs that do not affect the function of the manufactured item. Examples include an ornamental face plate for a watch or unique design for an office chair.
Click here to start a Design Patent Application.

Utility Patent
  • Used to protect machines, manufactured articles, processes, methods and compositions of matter.
  • 20-Year Term from the original filing date for the right to prevent others from selling, using and manufacturing the invention
  • Immediate "patent pending" status

Provisional Application for Patent
  • Used for machines, manufactured articles, processes, methods and compositions of matter.
  • 12-month term
  • Immediate "patent pending" status
  • Priority filing date when you file a corresponding Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application
  • Fast, inexpensive way to test market demand and begin discussing your invention with others
Design Patent
  • Used to protect the non-functional appearance, design, shape, configuration and/or ornamentation of useful manufactured items
  • The design must solely be for ornamental purposes.
  • No protection for function or use of the manufactured item.
  • 14-Year Patent Term