Our U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to enact laws relating to patents. Specifically, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that "Congress shall have power... to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to ... inventors the exclusive right to their ... discoveries."

In the United States, there are primarily two (2) types of patents: utility patents and design patents. An utility patent protects the structure and function of a product, machine and/or process. There are two (2) types of utility patent applications. A provisional utility patent application and a non-provisional utility patent application. In contrast, a design patent protects the ornamental appearance of a product. Utility patents and design patents are described in more detail at the following links:

Utility Patents
Provisional Patent Applications
Design Patent