A U.S. patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States, or importing the invention into the United States, for a limited time, in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the Federal Agency charged with granting U.S. Patents and registering Federal Trademarks.
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. In general, the term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Design patents remain in force for 14 years from the filing date.
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants. Term of the patent is 20 years from the filing date.
In order to receive consideration for a U.S. Patent under U.S. patent law, inventions must be new, useful, and non-obvious. For clarification on what these terms mean, visit the USPTO's General Information Concerning Patents.