What's a Utility Patent?

When inventors talk about patents, they're usually referring to a utility patent. This is because utility patents cover the most common categories of innovation. As the name suggests, utility patents are awarded to inventions that produce some sort of useful result (as opposed to design patents, which protect purely artistic or ornamental designs on useful objects).

For your invention to qualify for utility patent protection, it must fall into one of the following categories of subject matter:
  • Machines, which are generally composed of moving parts (like a clock or an engine)
  • Articles of Manufacture, which generally resemble objects (such as a screwdriver or bolt)
  • Processes, which are stepwise methods (including software and methods of doing business)
  • Compositions of Matter, which include compounds and mixtures (such as man-made proteins and pharmaceuticals)