The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an executive agency within U.S. Department of Commerce that issues patents and trademarks to applicants. It is unique among all the federal agencies because it operates solely from fees collected by patent and trademark applicants, and not tax dollars. The USPTO is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, and include satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and San Jose.
A utility patent is issued for an invention of a new and useful "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter" or an improvement thereof. Utility patents are intended to protect the function of the invention, up to a period of twenty years from the date of filing. Approximately 90% of all patents issued by the USPTO have been utility patents.