Patents secure the inventor’s legal and commercial rights over their inventions. But before filing for a patent, here’s everything you need to know about the different kinds of patents and patent applications.
Patent types vary, based on the nature of the invention. Watchers of the hit American reality TV show Shark Tank would be familiar with the diversity of inventions that the contestants present. These inventions are then judged by self-made business giants or ‘Sharks’, who can choose to enter into business deals with entrepreneurs. However, before they do so, we routinely hear the investors ask entrepreneurs whether they have a patent for their inventions. This is also a common occurrence on The Vault, the Indian TV show inspired by Shark Tank. Investors often ask this question because they deem having a patent to be a game-changer in business. Here is a detailed look at what a patent is, and what are the different patent types.
What is a Patent?
A patent is an intellectual property right, or IPR, which protects inventions, as well as new and non-obvious discoveries. The patent is presented as a legal certificate that ensures that the inventor are the sole benefactor of their invention. Once patented, the inventor can use their invention to gain commercial benefits – whether it’s licensing their idea or leveraging it for their business. The patent also allows the inventor to take legal action against entities reproducing or using their invention without your permission. One needs to file an application to attain a patent. Essentially, there are three types of patents in IPR.
Different types of patents
Before embarking on the patent application process, the inventor must recognise the different types of patents they can file. Here are the three patent types:
- A Utility patent
The most common types of patent applications received by the Patent Offices across the world, are for a utility patents. Such a patent covers various processes, machines, compositions of matter, and manufactures which are novel and useful to humankind in general. These components of the utility patent are defined as under:
Processes: Processes are defined as any method or act of doing something, typically involving technical or industrial processes.
- Compositions of matter: A composition of matter utility patent type refers to the chemical compositions, including a mixture of ingredients and substances or new chemical compounds.
- Manufactures: A manufacture is any product that requires undergoing a manufacturing process.
- Machine: A machines utility patent includes anything that is primarily regarded as a machine – for instance, computers, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.
While one can obtain a utility patent for a new invention, one may also file for this kind of patent if they are making new and useful improvements or enhancement to any existing processes, machines, matter, compositions or manufactures. Remember, a laptop is essentially a mobile computer, and is considered an improvement of an existing computer. That said, it should be noted that India does not offer utility patents currently. As an Indian innovator looking to file a utility patent, you can apply for utility patents in countries such as Australia, UAE, China, Germany, France and several other countries in the European Union.
- Design Patent
The design patent is another kind of patent one can obtain. With reference to patents, the design is the “surface ornamentation” of the object. The design patent should include details such as the shape and configuration of the object invented or enhanced. To be eligible to obtain a design patent protection, one must ensure that the product’s design is inseparable from the object. And while the object and design should be in sync, the design patent is only granted for, and thus only protects, the appearance of the object. However, if one wishes to protect both the functional and the structural features of the object invented, they can also file for a utility patent.
- A Plant Patent:
If one comes across new, distinctive plants, that may not have been seen or heard of before; they can obtain a third kind of patent: a plant patent. However, the discovery must fit the requirements under the plant patent laws before applying. For instance, one cannot apply for this patent if the plant is a tuber propagated plant, or if it appears uncultivated. It should only be reproduced asexually. Asexual reproduction the act in which the plant is reproduced through cutting or grafting, as opposed to reproduction with seeds. Asexual reproduction is mandatory for plant patents, which typically do not cover organisms that are genetically modified. The focus of plant patents is primarily on unconventional horticulture. Like Utility patents, currently there is no provision for plant patents in India and you can apply for the same in Australia, USA and several European countries.
Types of patent applications
Inventors should also be aware of the types of patent applications. There are two types:
- Provisional Patents
An inventor can file for a provisional patent if their invention is still in its development phase and they intend to make improvements to it. They will get 12 months to develop and enhance their invention and convert the provisional patent into a complete patent application.
- Complete Patent
If one has their complete invention in place and is ready to get their patent, they can file a complete patent application.
Final word: Before an inventor files their patent application, they should recognise the application and patent type. It is recommended that they hire patent professionals to assist with the patent filing process, which can be quite challenging.
All Patents are governed under the Indian Patent Law, which grants exclusive monopoly rights to the patent holder. Once one has the patent, they too can go on Shark Tank and crack a deal that can make you a millionaire!