Patent Law - California Western
Patent Law


The patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires that all three types of patents satisfy the novelty and unobviousness requirements.

Processes which cannot be patented

Mental processes which can be performed with only oneís mind or body cannot be protected by patents. Some type of hardware must be involved in the process to qualify for protection. The law does not want to limit what a person can do essentially with the body alone.

Utility Patent

Utility patents are the most common patents and protect inventions that function in a specific and unique way that produces a utilitarian result. Examples are computer hardware, chemical structures, keyboards, automobile engines, and medical procedures.

Design Patent

Design patents protects a unique visible and aesthetic shape or design of an object. Examples are drawings of a computer monitor prototype, radio, phones, and shoes. However, the shape must be purely ornamental or aesthetic and not utilitarian. If the shape serves both an ornamental and utilitarian function, then a utility patent must be filed. A helpful way to distinguish between a design patent and a utility patent is to ask, "Is the novel feature there for only ornamental reasons, or for structural and functional reasons." If the answer is both structural and functional, then a utility patent must be filed.

Plant Patent

Plant patents protect asexually or sexually reproductive plants like grasses, flowers, trees, bushes, and mosses.