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How long does a patent last?

When you find yourself in the position of needing a patent to protect your new product or invention but are new to the process, it's easy to feel a little overwhelmed. One of the first steps is learning a little bit about the different kinds of patents that are available, what each of them specifically cover and how long they last.

To help you get started, here are some of the basics things that you might need to know about patent types and their term lengths.

Patent Types

There are three different types of patents - utility, design and plant - and they each cover very different things.

● Utility Patent

The most commonly needed patent is the utility patent. This covers new, functional inventions that fall into one or more of the following categories: a machine, a process, an improvement of an existing idea, a manufacture and a composition of matter. Utility patents will last for 20 years from the filing date of your patent application.

● Design Patent

Design patents are for product designs only - meaning something that is entirely aesthetic or ornamental, but not functional. These patents can be filed in conjunction with utility patents if both the function of a new product and the aesthetic design of it are both unique. This patent can also be used to patent computer imagery, like original fonts or icons. Design patents cover a term of 14 (if filed on or before May 12, 2015) or 15 years (if filed after May 12, 2015) from the date of issue.

● Plant Patent

The most infrequently used patent is the plant patent, which is very specifically for new types of asexually reproducing plants. The term for these patents is 20 years from their application date and prevents people or businesses outside of the patent holder from creating the same type of plant or profiting from it for that twenty year span.

When you're ready to apply for a patent, it can very beneficial to seek the counsel of an attorney who is well versed in patent law to guide you through the process and answer any questions that may arise when applying.

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