A patent is a document that discloses an invention to the public. In exchange for disclosing the invention to the public, the U.S. government grants the inventor rights to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention claimed in the patent for a period of 20 years.
There are a few types of Patents: Utility Patents, Design Patents, and Plant Patents. Utility Patents protect “new and useful” inventions or discoveries, while Design Patents protect “non-functional, ornamental designs”. Plant Patents protect man made genetic variations of plants and their seedlings. Most inventions and discoveries are protected as Utility Patents.
Still not sure if your idea is patentable? Ask a patent attorney for free:
Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.
Source: Smartup Legal