A patent is an intellectual 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 when the patent is granted.
There are three types of patents.
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. For example, Netflix, an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media and DVD rentals via flat rate DVD-by-mail, patented its subscriber-created list of ordered DVDs, called a rental queue, of movies to rent. The movies are delivered individually via the US Postal Service from an array of regional warehouses. The subscriber can keep the rented movie as long as desired, but there is a limit on the number of movies (determined by subscription level) that each subscriber can have on loan simultaneously. To rent a new movie, the subscriber must mail the previous one back to Netflix in a prepaid mailing envelope. Upon receipt of the disc, Netflix ships the next available disc in the subscriber's rental queue.
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Below is a design patent of iPod device:
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.