Patents are quite commonly granted in the US. Inventors can apply for patents in the US for new products and processes that they have invented as well as for discoveries. When a person gets a patent he/she gets the exclusive rights to the widget invented which would prevent anyone else from manufacturing and selling the product that is patented. This is generally valid for a period of 20 years and is argued that these measures go against the grain of capitalism and also hinder competition. The true spirit of capitalism actually allows and promotes competition and free flow of unrestricted information.
Patents serve an important purpose. They help innovative startups preserve their interests in a highly competitive world which help to defend the company. Companies use patents to gain competitive and also strategic advantage in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world. One needs to do a search for patents and patent attorneys also check this out before filing a patent on behalf of the innovator. One can also use software to gather, sift, predict and manage technology using the patent.
There are some specific requirements of patents. For one, it has to be proved that the invention is indeed unique and is not an insignificant improvement over what existed earlier. Individual governments give patents to help the innovator and also society. These patents help the innovator produce their invention on mass scale without fearing undue competition. These patents help to deter free riders and idea thieves who might steal the product innovation without spending on R&D or making any effort.
It is required that you file the patents before making the invention public. If it is disclosed prior to being implemented, it would not be granted a patent as one cannot patent ideas. But if you file a patent with sketches and descriptions of the invention duly notarized, the USPTO would accept it and hold it for two years.
It is also possible to find patents for business processes. These are used for chemical formulas, inventions and other discoveries. Earlier, business method patents considered non patentable as they are rather abstract in nature and not in physical form, as such. As of now business method patents are not under question, but there are certain criteria and algorithms in the realm of patentable subject matter.
Commercial designs for products are also protected by patents in this day and age. These can help in protecting new and unique designs in computers and accessories and peripherals. These help prevent any copycat designs by unscrupulous competitors and design thieves. On the other hand, there are design patents that do not protect an invention or an idea but just the external and ornamental design of what has been depicted and shown. This is being on a stickier wicket than when you have a utility patent, because copies are easier to effect.