In the United States, the term of a utility patent depends on when the patent application was filed. If the patent issued from an application filed prior to June 8, 1995, the term is the later of (1) 17 years from the date of issuance of the patent, or (2) 20 years from the first U.S. filing date for the patent. If the patent issued from an application filed on or after June 8, 1995, then the term is 20 years from the first U.S. filing date for the patent. Owning a U.S. utility patent gives a company the powerful right to prevent others from making, using or selling the protected subject matter.
Utility patents have been granted on inventions for compositions of matter, articles of manufacture, machines, software, processes of all kinds – from chemical to business methods – and new uses of old compositions of matter or improvements on existing patented technology. A utility patent application includes a specification, claims and drawings. Any protection you obtain will be defined by the claims and therefore a utility patent may be very broad depending on the claim language allowed by the Patent Office.