More commonly encountered in mechanical engineering, the utility patent protects the function of an apparatus, process, product, or composition of matter.
The utility patent generally contains three main components:
• The specification is a written description of the purpose, construction, and operation of the invention
• The drawings show one or more versions of the invention
• The claims explain in precise language the specific features that the patent protects the description provided in the patent must be detailed enough to teach someone else how to use the invention.
Utility patents become valid on the date the patent is granted, and recently issued ones expire 20 years after the date of the application, which must be filed within one year of the inventor’s having publicly disclosed or used the invention.
To apply for a patent, engineers normally work with patent attorneys who conduct a search of existing patents, prepare the application, and interact with a national trademark and patent office.
In 2009, the United States alone granted over 190,000 patents, only half of which have U.S. origins.
The following shows the top ten countries ranked by the number of patents granted in the United States in 2009.
The following instead shows the top ten countries ranked by the percentage increase of patents granted in the United States between 2009 and 1999.