Just like other property rights, patent law confers the right to exclude others— in this case from making, using, or selling the patented product. This is consistent with the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which grants inventors the “exclusive Right to their…Discoveries.”
For others to legally make, use, or sell the patented product, they would have to be granted permission by the patentee. This is often accomplished through a licensing agreement, in which the patentee authorizes others to sell, make, or use the product.
Currently, there are three different types of patents:
Utility patents may be granted for machines, processes, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, or for improvements to any of those items.
EXAMPLEThe Apple iPhone is a subject of utility patents.
A design patent may be granted for ornamental designs for an article of manufacture. Biological (also called biologics) patents include plant patents covering inventions or discoveries of asexually reproduced plants (e.g., plants produced through methods such as grafting), gene patents that protect a specific sequence of DNA that has been manipulated in a lab, and patents on pharmaceutical or other products made from natural biological products.
Not all items are patentable. For instance, an idea alone (without a definite description) cannot be patented.
EXAMPLEEven if you dreamed up the idea of something that looked and functioned exactly like the Apple iPhone, you would not have been eligible for a patent on your idea alone.
Likewise, physical phenomena, the laws of nature, abstract ideas, and artistic works cannot be patented. Note, however, that artistic works can be copyright protected.
Additionally, otherwise patentable subjects that are not useful, or items that are offensive to public morality, are not patentable.
The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that naturally occurring gene sequences and their natural derivative products are not patentable, but gene sequences refined by synthetic processes to create molecules are patentable.
Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 569 U.S. 576 (2013).
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Patents" tutorial.