A patent for an invention is a grant of a property right by the U.S. Government to the inventor. It provides an inventor with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or offering to sell an invention for a limited period of time.

Patent Example

CompuServe
The first patent issued to CompuServe, one of the first online companies.

Patent Fact

Many types of inventions that involve the use of computers are protectable under U.S. patent laws.

Practically any invention may be the subject of a patent as long as it is novel and not obvious. Patentable subject matter includes new processes, systems, apparatus, methods, software, and improvements. Once issued, a U.S. utility patent is enforceable for a period of twenty (20) years from the filing date of the patent application.

The two most common types of patents are utility patents and design patents. A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. A design patent may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.