A patent is a grant from the federal government conferring the right to exclude others from making, selling, or using an invention for the term of patent protection. Like copyrights, patents are governed exclusively by federal law. Whereas rights in trademarks arise from use and copyright rights arise from the moment a work is created, and neither requires federal registration, patents must be issued by the federal government to be protectable. There are three types of patents: those for useful objects, those for the ornamental design of an object, and those for asexually reproduced plants. This book focuses primarily on patents for useful objects, called utility patents, because they are by far the most common type of patent.
Whereas trademarks can last forever if properly protected and maintained, and copyrights have a long term of duration (generally the author's life plus seventy years), patent protection lasts only twenty years from the application date for utility and plant patents (and fourteen years from the grant date for design patents). After this period of protection, the exclusive monopoly given to the patent owner expires and the invention falls into the public domain, free for all to use. Moreover, during the term of utility patent protection, fees are due at various intervals to maintain the patent in force.
No patent gives its owner the right to make, use, or sell the invention; rather, the right granted is only to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention. Thus, if one obtains a patent for a new widget and the widget would infringe another's patented invention or sale of the widget requires a license, the inventor has no right to make, use, or