A utility patent protects the way something operates, the general concept informing an idea or invention, or the steps comprising a particular method or process.
Since a concept may be executed in multiple ways, a utility patent typically protects across multiple embodiments of an invention. Therefore, utility patents generally have broad scope which makes them appealing to inventors.
There are two types of applications for utility patent - a provisional application and a nonprovisional application.
In order to attain patent protection for an invention, a nonprovisional application must be filed.
Download our overview of the patenting process here.
A nonprovisional application is a complete disclosure of the invention to the United States Patent Office (USPTO) which, depending on prosecution, entitles the inventor to patent protection.
A nonprovisional application is subject to examination by an Examiner at the USPTO. A nonprovisional application typically takes 18 months or more for patentability to be determined. For patent protection for any new or useful improvement in a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, a nonprovisional application for utility patent has to be filed.
For more information on nonprovisional applications, please click here.
Often incorrectly termed a "provisional patent" a provisional application for utility patent is a temporary, incomplete filing used to secure a filing date. It is an additional step to patenting.
A provisional application buys an inventor one year to file the complete, nonprovisional application while conducting further research and development on the invention.
Provisional applications need to be written with mind to the future filed nonprovisional application, to make sure the filing date will be inherited by the nonprovisional without unduly limiting the disclosure before reduction to practice has ultimately occurred.
To find out more about provisional applications, click here.