Developing a new idea can cost a lot of time and money. But in the end, a very useful product can bring an enormous amount of income to the inventor. Of course, this success can be thwarted by having your plans stolen by another company or individual. Luckily, the United States government allows people to protect their newly developed ideas under U.S. patent laws. As there are more than one type of patent available, it's important to choose the one that best fits your needs.
Patents Versus Copyrighting
Before pursuing a copyright or patent, you need to know the difference between the two: Patents are ideas that lead to actual tangible innovations, while copyrights protect artistic achievements, including literary, musical and dramatic creations. Both of these protect innovators from having their ideas stolen.
This is the most common type of patent issued. Filing a nonprovisional patent requires a design drawing and description of the idea, along with payment of an application fee. Nonprovisional patents last for 20 years.
This is a special patent used for protecting new ideas. Ideas for inventions that have not been fully developed can have provisional patents placed on them, preventing them from being stolen. This is the least costly patent, but it only lasts for 12 months. Afterward, inventors can file for a nonprovisional utility patent.
Design patents protect the way a product is designed. The fundamental ideas behind the patent might not be original, but the physical design of the idea is. For instance, most cars are fundamentally the same, but a Porsche has a very particular design that cannot be duplicated by another car manufacturer. This patent lasts for 14 years.
Plant patents cover genetically altered hybrids and newly found plant types, preventing other horticulturalists from creating and selling these plants for up to 20 years.