Types of Patent Applications
Utility patent - protects functional inventions that are new & non-obvious.
Design patent - protects ornamental (non-functional) aspects of a product. Examples include the shape of a lamp or food container, car wheel design, and graphic user interfaces.
Plant patent - protects new & distinctive plant varieties that are (1) not tuber-propagated, (2) not found in an uncultivated state, and (3) can be asexually reproduced.
Provisional Patent Application (PPA)
PPAs are available for functional inventions (i.e. not designs) and provide a filing date and 12 months in which to file a utility patent. PPAs are not examined by the USPTO, will not mature into a patent, and will expire after 12 months of filing.
A patent application is only as good as the skill with which it is prepared, and it is both an art and a science to prepare an application that is both valuable, valid and enforceable. There are many pitfalls in the preparation and filing of applications. Inventors are well-served to seek the assistance of an experienced patent practitioner as early in the process as possible, because certain activities can result in a loss of the ability to file a patent.