There are three different kinds of patents: utility, design and plant patents. Utility patents are by far the most common and are granted for any new, non-obvious and useful process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter or any new useful improvements on existing products.
Design patents are granted for original ornamental designs, i.e., an aesthetic appearance.
Plant patents may be granted for an asexually reproduced distinct and new variety of plant, excluding tuber propagated plants, Jerusalem artichokes, or plants found in an uncultivated state.
Patents give the patentee the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention anywhere in the United States while the patent is valid, but they do not grant any affirmative rights to use the invention.
Of course, there are often specific exceptions to the above. If you have any questions or wish to discuss how this may impact your company, please contact an attorney at Wood Phillips.