HomeCultureWhat is a Patent? - Intellectual Property

What is a Patent? – Intellectual Property

The developers of a project have invested hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in the project or just the idea. How do they protect themselves that their work has not been in vain and their investment is secure?

A patent is a legal document that gives the holder exclusive rights to make, use and sell an invention for a certain number of years.

The procedure for granting patents, the requirements placed on the patentee, and the extent of the exclusive rights vary widely between countries according to national laws and international agreements. There are differences in patent length, requirements, and fee structures between countries.

what is a patent? first ever us patent
Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Types of patents

If you were interested in how many types of patents there are, we have prepared a list below.

Utility patents

These cover new, useful, and non-obvious processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement.

This type of patent granted the inventor to exclude others from manufacturing, selling, or using the invention for a certain period of time.

Design Patents

This kind of patent covers new, original, and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture. Some of the most famous design patents applied are the original curvy bottle of Coca-Cola from 1915 and the Statue of Liberty in 1879.

Plant patents

These cover asexually reproducible plants that have been invented or discovered and asexually reproduced.

For the first time, the United States began granting flower patents in 1930. One year later, a plant patent was issued to Henry Bosenberg for his climbing, ever-blooming rose. 

Provisional patents

These are a type of utility patent that allows inventors to temporarily establish an early effective filing date for a future nonprovisional patent application.
This can be used to establish priority for an invention but doesn’t give the inventor any rights until a nonprovisional patent is filed.

PCT patents

These are known as international patents and are filed through the patent cooperation treaty PCT which allows inventors to simultaneously seek protection for an invention in several countries by filing a single „international” patent application.

Software patents

These are utility patents that cover new and useful processes and systems that are implemented on a computer. Software patent rules and regulations vary greatly depending on the country in which it was filed.

How Long Does Patent Protection Last?

The length of time that a patent is valid varies depending on the type of patent and the country in which it was filed.
For example, in the United States or Europe, utility patents, are granted for a period of 20 years from the date of filing, while design patents are typically granted for a period of 15 years from the date of grant.

The owner of the patent must pay a maintenance fee in order to keep a patent in force, otherwise, the patent will expire before the end of its term.

In exchange for this exclusive right, the inventor must fully disclose the details of the invention to the public. This allows others to learn from the invention and build upon it.
Patents are granted by the government and are typically granted for new, useful, and non-obvious inventions.

The First Time a Patent Was Recorded

The first recorded patent was granted by the Venetian Republic to the artist and inventor Filippo Brunelleschi on October 18, 1421, for a barge with hoisting gear that could be used to transport marble.

first ever us patent 1790 Samuel Hopkins potash
First US Patent / Wikimedia

The actual modern French patent was created during the Revolution in 1791. The first-ever patent was passed on April 10, 1790, to Samuel Hopkins, he patented a way of manufacturing pearl ash and potash. Later these years, the potash term was renamed potassium carbonate, this being used as a detergent to clean fibers in textile manufacturing and even as a fertilizer.

How to apply for a patent

steam locomotive patent us
Dorothe / Pixabay

The process of obtaining a patent typically involves the following steps:

Conduct a patent search

Before applying for a patent, it is important to search existing patents to ensure that your invention is novel and non-obvious. This can help you avoid infringement of other patents, as well as avoid wasting time and money on an application that is unlikely to be granted.

Prepare and file a patent application

A patent application typically includes a written description of the invention, known as the specification, and one or more drawings or diagrams that illustrate the invention. In the United States, you must also include a set of claims that define the scope of the invention and the legal rights being sought.


After the application is filed, it will be reviewed by a patent examiner. The examiner will determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious, and may request additional information or clarification. You may need to engage in a back-and-forth dialogue with the examiner to get the application approved.

If the patent application is approved, a patent will be granted. This gives the inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing the invention into the country.


A patent owner must pay maintenance fees to keep the patent in force. Failure to pay these fees can cause the patent to expire before the end of its term.
It’s important to note that obtaining a patent can be a complex process that requires a detailed understanding of patent laws and regulations, as well as the technical aspects of the invention. Many inventors choose to work with a patent attorney or agent to help guide them through the process.

Patents vs Copyrights vs Trademarks

Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property protection, but they offer different types of protection:


Protect new, useful, and non-obvious inventions and give the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell the invention for a certain number of years.


Protect original works of authorship, such as literary works, musical works, and artistic works, and give the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work.


Protect distinctive symbols, logos, or other identifying marks that are used to distinguish goods and services in the marketplace, and give the trademark owner the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services it identifies.
In summary, patents protect inventions, copyrights protect creative works, and trademarks protect brand identity.

How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Patent?

The cost of obtaining a patent can vary widely, depending on the complexity of the invention, the type of patent being sought, and the country in which the patent is being filed.

In the United States, for example, the cost of preparing and filing a simple utility patent application can range from $5,000 to $10,000 or more. This cost can be higher for more complex applications and may include additional expenses for searching existing patents, preparing and filing amendments, and engaging in correspondence with the patent office.

In other countries, the cost of obtaining a patent can be significantly lower or higher, depending on the legal and administrative requirements in that country.

In addition, it’s important to note that obtaining a patent is a long-term investment, as the cost of maintaining the patent over its lifetime, including paying maintenance fees and defending the patent in court, can add significantly to the overall cost.

It’s recommended to consult a patent attorney or agent to get an accurate estimate of the cost of obtaining a patent for your invention.

Most Famous Patents Ever


Patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the telephone revolutionized communication and paved the way for the development of modern telecommunications technology.

Light bulb

Patented by Thomas Edison in 1879, the incandescent light bulb transformed the way we live by providing safe, efficient, and reliable indoor lighting.


Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, the antibiotic penicillin revolutionized the field of medicine and saved countless lives from bacterial infections.

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