Patents are incredibly useful for businesses and inventors who want to protect their inventions and products. A patent is a right granted by the federal government, protecting the patent holder from other people who want to profit from or reproduce the work that is covered in the patent.

Patents come in three types: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents are very common, and they cover things such as machinery, chemicals and processes. Design patents relate to the appearance or design of a particular product. The sleek curves of a cellphone; the ornaments on a motor vehicle; the overall “look” of a product; these are things covered by a design patent.

Plant patents, meanwhile, are self-explanatory. They deal with plants, and the reproduction or hybrid creation of plants.

Now, you don’t just obtain a patent automatically, like it is with copyright laws. With a patent, you have to apply for the protections offered. This means the product, or design, or plant that you are trying to patent must be “novel and non-obvious” in nature. You also need to substantiate your patent application and show the usefulness of the product, design or plant that you are trying to patent.

Obviously there is a lot to unpack when it comes to patents. Applying for a patent is complicated, and then enforcing that patent (if you receive a patent from the federal government) can be even more complex. Businesses and inventors need to know what to do when they are dealing with patents.