Looking for some examples of utility patents? We gathered a collection of extraordinary utility patents that exemplify the power of innovation and patent protection.
These groundbreaking inventions span various industries, showcasing the diverse applications and advantages of utility patents. Prepare to be inspired as we explore the ingenuity and impact of these protected creations.
What is a Utility Patent?
A utility patent is a valuable form of intellectual property protection that safeguards an inventor’s novel and useful invention from being replicated or used by others without permission.
Utility patents are the most common type of patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), accounting for over 90% of all patents issued. These patents protect a wide spectrum of innovations, from mechanical devices and software algorithms to chemical compounds and business processes.
To qualify for a utility patent, an invention must meet three essential requirements:
- Novelty: The invention must be new, meaning it hasn’t been publicly disclosed or patented before the filing date of the patent application.
- Usefulness: The invention must have practical utility and be capable of providing tangible benefits or solving a problem.
- Non-obviousness: The invention must not be obvious to someone with ordinary skill in the relevant field of technology. It should involve an inventive step that goes beyond what is readily known or expected.
What Inventions Qualify for a Utility Patent?
A broad selection of inventions qualifies for utility patents, including:
- Articles of manufacture
- Compositions of matter
Articles of Manufacture: Articles of manufacture refer to finished products that are useful but not necessarily mechanical or composed of moving parts. Examples include everyday items like brooms, candleholders, and kitchen utensils. While they lack the complexity of machines, these products offer specific utility to users.
Machines: Machines are devices or combinations of devices that perform specific functions or provide utility. A prime example of a machine covered under a utility patent is a modern robotic arm. These arms are used in manufacturing processes, assembly lines, and even surgical procedures to perform precise and repetitive tasks with high accuracy.
Processes: Processes, also known as methods, describe a way of performing an activity to achieve a specific outcome. Business processes and software algorithms fall under this category. For instance, a patent could cover a unique method of data encryption used in secure communication protocols.
Compositions of Matter: Compositions of matter involve combinations of materials or ingredients that create new chemical compounds. Pharmaceuticals, adhesives, and genetically modified organisms are examples of compositions of matter. These inventions often result from groundbreaking research and have significant applications in various industries.
12 Utility Patent Examples
Let’s explore some remarkable utility patent examples that have shaped industries and transformed the way we live and work.
1. The Smartphone – U.S. Patent No. 7,966,578
Few innovations have revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate as much as the smartphone. The smartphone combines various functionalities like communication, computation, internet access, and multimedia capabilities into a single handheld device. In 2011, Apple Inc. was granted U.S. Patent No. 7,966,578 for “Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content.”
This patent covers the iconic “slide-to-unlock” feature, allowing users to unlock their devices by sliding a finger across the screen. It also includes various other intuitive touch-based user interfaces that have become standard in modern smartphones.
2. Hybrid Vehicle – U.S. Patent No. 6,340,847
Environmental concerns and the need for sustainable transportation have led to innovations in the automotive industry. The hybrid vehicle, combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor, is an example of such innovation. In 2001, Toyota was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,340,847 for “Vehicle drive system and method of controlling a vehicle drive system.”
This utility patent example covers aspects of controlling power distribution between the internal combustion engine and the electric motor to optimize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Toyota’s Prius, which incorporates this technology, became a popular and influential hybrid vehicle worldwide.
3. Internet Search Engine – U.S. Patent No. 6,285,999
Internet search engines have transformed how we access information, making the vast expanse of the internet accessible with a few keystrokes. In 2001, Google Inc. was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,285,999 for “Method for node ranking in a linked database.”
This patent covers the algorithm used to rank web pages in search results based on their relevance and popularity. Google’s search engine, powered by this patent, became the dominant search platform globally, and the company’s name has become synonymous with internet searching.
4. Folding Utility Knife – U.S. Patent No. 7,506,446
Inventions need not be high-tech or digital to be revolutionary. The folding utility knife is a simple yet ingenious tool that has found wide applications in various industries and everyday tasks. In 1999, Kenneth J. Onion was granted U.S. Patent No. 7,506,446 for a “Folding knife with a safety locking mechanism.”
This patent covers the design of a folding knife with a locking mechanism to securely hold the blade in place when extended. The folding utility knife has become a staple tool for craftsmen, outdoor enthusiasts, and many others.
5. Artificial Pancreas System – U.S. Patent No. 4,515,584
Advancements in medical technology have significantly improved the quality of life for patients with chronic health conditions. The artificial pancreas system is one such advancement that promises to revolutionize diabetes management. In 2017, Medtronic MiniMed, Inc., was granted U.S. Patent No. 4,515,584 for an “Automated delivery of therapy to a patient.”
This patent covers an artificial pancreas system that automatically monitors blood glucose levels and delivers insulin as needed, mimicking the function of a healthy pancreas. Such innovations offer hope for millions of individuals living with diabetes.
6. 3D Printing Technology – U.S. Patent No. 5,121,329
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has revolutionized the manufacturing industry and opened up new possibilities for rapid prototyping, customization, and decentralized production. In 1992, Charles W. Hull was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,121,329 for an “Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by Stereolithography.”
This patent covers the foundational technology of stereolithography, which involves using a computer-controlled laser to solidify layers of liquid resin, one on top of the other, to build a 3D object layer by layer. This groundbreaking invention paved the way for the development of various 3D printing technologies that are now used in diverse applications, ranging from aerospace and healthcare to consumer products and art.
7. E-commerce “One-Click” Purchase – U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411
In the world of e-commerce, convenience and speed are paramount to providing an excellent customer experience. Amazon.com, one of the pioneers of online retail, was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411 in 1999 for a “Method and System for Placing a Purchase Order via a Communications Network.”
This patent famously covered the “one-click” purchase technology, allowing registered users to make purchases with a single click without the need to re-enter payment and shipping information for each transaction. This innovation drastically simplified the online buying process, reducing friction and significantly increasing conversion rates for e-commerce platforms. Although this patent has expired, it has influenced numerous subsequent innovations in the field of online purchasing and user experience.
8. Smart Home Automation – U.S. Patent No. 9,230,560
The integration of technology into homes has led to the rise of smart home automation, enhancing comfort, convenience, and energy efficiency. In 2020, Google LLC received U.S. Patent No. 9,230,560 for “Home automation system with response generation.”
This patent introduces an intelligent home automation system that analyzes sensor data to generate appropriate responses, enhancing the interaction between occupants and their smart environment. By enabling seamless communication between devices and residents, U.S. Patent No. 9,230,560 contributes to the evolution of modern living spaces powered by technology.
9. E-Book Reader – U.S. Patent No. 8,286,885
The shift from traditional books to digital reading has been enabled by inventions such as the e-book reader. In 2010, Amazon Technologies, Inc. was granted U.S. Patent No. 8,286,885 for “Electronic book with selectable viewing angles.”
This patent covers the design and technology behind an e-book reader with a flexible display that can be adjusted to provide optimal reading comfort at various angles. E-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle have redefined how we consume literature, making it more convenient and accessible.
10. CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing – U.S. Patent No. 8,697,359
Biotechnology has witnessed groundbreaking advancements with the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. In 2019, the Broad Institute, Inc. was granted U.S. Patent No. 8,697,359 for “Methods and compositions for RNA-directed target DNA modification and for RNA-directed modulation of transcription.”
This patent covers methods and systems for precise genome editing using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology has revolutionized genetic research, enabling scientists to modify DNA sequences with unprecedented accuracy and potential applications in fields like medicine and agriculture.
11. Renewable Energy Generation – U.S. Patent No. 9,897,065
The global shift towards renewable energy sources is exemplified by innovative technologies that harness the power of nature. In 2020, General Electric Company received U.S. Patent No. 9,897,065 for “Wind turbine with a modular blade assembly.”
This patent focuses on enhancing wind turbine efficiency and reliability by introducing a modular blade assembly. By simplifying maintenance and maximizing energy capture, U.S. Patent No. 9,897,065 contributes to the expansion of renewable energy generation and the reduction of carbon emissions.
12. Augmented Reality Applications – U.S. Patent No. 11,670,060
The convergence of digital and physical worlds has led to remarkable innovations in augmented reality (AR) applications. In 2022, Meta Platforms, Inc., secured U.S. Patent No. 11,670,060 for “Dynamic content placement in augmented reality environments.”
This patent introduces dynamic content placement techniques that seamlessly integrate virtual elements into real-world environments. By enabling more immersive and contextually relevant AR experiences, U.S. Patent No.11,670,060 contributes to the evolution of interactive entertainment, education, navigation, and beyond.
How to Obtain a Utility Patent
Obtaining a utility patent is a complex and intricate process that involves navigating various legal requirements and ensuring that the invention meets the stringent criteria for patentability. Hiring a patent attorney can significantly assist inventors throughout this journey, providing expert guidance and maximizing the chances of a successful patent application. LegalZoom‘s legal services offer a reliable and accessible option for inventors seeking professional assistance in securing their utility patents.
The Process of Obtaining a Utility Patent
Obtaining a starts with conducting a comprehensive patent search to ensure the invention’s novelty and non-obviousness. Once the inventor establishes the uniqueness of the idea, they must prepare and file a non-provisional utility patent application with the relevant patent office, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The patent application requires a detailed description of the invention, formal claims defining the scope of protection sought, and often accompanied by drawings or diagrams illustrating the invention’s functionality and design. After submission, the patent application undergoes examination by a patent examiner, who evaluates its novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness in comparison to prior art.
Why Hiring a Patent Attorney is Important
Navigating the patent process can be daunting for inventors, especially those unfamiliar with the legal intricacies and technicalities involved. Hiring a patent attorney offers several invaluable benefits:
- Expertise and Experience: Patent attorneys specialize in intellectual property law and possess in-depth knowledge of the patent system. Their experience with various patent applications and familiarity with patent examiners’ practices can significantly improve the application’s chances of approval.
- Strategic Guidance: Patent attorneys can provide strategic guidance on patenting decisions, including advice on how to define the scope of protection optimally. They can also conduct prior art searches to identify potential obstacles and help inventors avoid unnecessary expenses.
- Thorough and Accurate Application: Patent attorneys are skilled in crafting comprehensive patent applications, ensuring that all essential elements and claims are accurately presented. This attention to detail minimizes the risk of rejection due to technical errors or omissions.
- Response to Office Actions: If the patent application receives an office action (rejection or objection from the patent office), a patent lawyer can craft a persuasive response, addressing the examiner’s concerns and enhancing the chances of successful patent prosecution.
Navigating the intricacies of utility patents requires clarity and insight. Here, we address important inquiries about utility patents to offer insights into their significance and the application process.
What industries do utility patents cover?
Utility patents cover a broad range of industries and technologies. They can include innovations in fields such as electronics, software, mechanical engineering, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, consumer products, and more. Whether it’s a new medical device, a groundbreaking software algorithm, or an innovative manufacturing process, utility patents protect various types of inventions.
How long does a utility patent protection last?
Once granted, utility patents offer protection for a period of 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. During this time, the patent holder has the exclusive right to utilize, license, or prevent others from using the patented invention without their permission.
Can I apply for a utility patent on my own?
Yes, inventors can apply for a utility patent on their own, without hiring a patent attorney. However, the patent application process can be complex and requires adherence to specific legal requirements. Hiring a patent attorney can provide valuable expertise, increasing the application’s chances of success and avoiding common pitfalls.
What is a utility patent example, and how does it differ from a design patent example?
A utility patent example showcases an invention’s functional aspects and how it operates, while a design patent example focuses on protecting the ornamental appearance of a product, such as its unique shape, pattern, or surface decoration.
How do I begin the process of filing a utility patent application?
To start the process of filing a utility patent application, inventors need to conduct a thorough search to ensure the invention’s novelty. They should then prepare a detailed written description of the invention, illustrate it with figures, and complete the required application forms.
Can you explain the role of a provisional patent application in the patenting process?
A provisional patent application serves as a valuable initial step for inventors seeking patent protection. While it does not constitute an official patent application reviewed by the USPTO, it allows inventors to secure an early priority date and “patent pending” status. This means that during the one-year period following the provisional filing, inventors can further develop and refine their inventions before filing the non-provisional utility patent application, providing a critical advantage in the patenting process.
What are the differences between utility patents, design patents, and plant patents?
There are three main types of patents issued by the USPTO: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. A utility patent protects the functional aspects of an invention, covering how it works and what it does. This contrasts with design patents, which protect the unique ornamental appearance of a product. On the other hand, plant patents are granted to inventors who discover and asexually reproduce a distinct and new variety of plants, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. It’s crucial for inventors to understand the differences among these patent types to determine which category their invention fits best and proceed with the appropriate application process.