Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. Basically, if you are trying to patent something based on its usefulness/functionality, you are looking to obtain a utility patent.
In recent years, a few areas of subject matter for utility patents have been seemingly perpetually under attack as supposedly being ineligible for patenting: computer software-related inventions, business-method-related inventions, and certain biotech-related inventions. However, in general, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that this subject matter is eligible for patenting under certain circumstances. However, the ever-evolving case law imposes a moving target for Inventors and their patent counsel to meet in order to get around the idea that an Inventor is merely trying to patent an abstract idea or a law of nature. Therefore, it is very important that your Denver patent counsel is both experienced in these areas and keeps themselves up-to-date with the evolving rules in order to maximize the chance of successfully obtaining a utility patent in these areas.
The term of a U.S. utility patent is 20 years, as measured from the date that the first non-provisional patent application is filed, although it needs to be noted that the mere filing of a patent application does not, in and of itself, result in a granted patent. On average, the effective term of a utility patent is usually around 17 years from the date of issuance.