The utility patent is the most widely issued type of patent, and this category of patent is subdivided into three different categories based on the functionality of the invention: electrical, chemical and mechanical.
Utility patents protect the functionality and use of an invention, and anyone who invents a unique process, device, machine, method, chemical compound or manufactured product can apply for and obtain a utility patent.
Utility patents can also be issued for any improvement to an existing invention which is deemed to be new and useful.
To determine whether you qualify for a non-provisional utility patent, you should make sure that your invention is sufficiently different from existing items, and that you can describe all aspects of it in clear and definite terms. Conducting a patent search yourself can be helpful in this regard.
Otherwise, getting the help of a patent research firm of patent attorney can save you the time and hassle of figuring it all out yourself. It’s important to note, however, that a utility patent cannot be issued to a mere suggestion or idea.
There are some clear differences between a design patent and a utility patent. The utility patent protects a new invention or improvements on existing inventions which are functional. Utility patents are issued to any functional new inventions or improvements on a machine, process, product or to the composition of matter.
A good example of an improved technology that qualifies for a utility patent is the move to OLED technology from LED. This improvement involves a change in the material used for light emitting diodes from a synthetic to organic material. In contrast, a design patent protects the configuration, appearance, shape, size and other aesthetic aspects of an invention.
Design patents are appropriate for improvements to an existing product which does not change the function but only the style of the product.