Requirements for Patentability
There are four statutory classes of patents under U.S. patent law:
- (1) Machine (any device or apparatus);
- (2) Manufacture (a manufactured article);
- (3) Composition (combination of ingredients such as chemicals, and
- (4) Process (method of doing something)
Now lets turn to the requirements for patentability.
An invention must be useful, novel, and non-obvious in order to be patentable. Additionally, it must be adequately described in a patent application and this standard is addressed in my posting entitled “Adequately Disclosing Your Invention in the Patent Application“.
useful: In short, this means that your invention should work. This is fairly simple-your invention cannot be inoperable.
Novel: In order for an invention to be novel, it must be new as defined in the patent law. This means that the same invention has not been known or described by others in this country or patented or described anywhere before its invention by the applicant.
Keep in mind that if the inventor described the invention in a printed publication or uses the invention publicly, or places it on sale, he/she must apply for a patent before one year has gone by, otherwise any rights to the patent will be lost.
What happens if the exact invention is not shown in the prior art? What if there are small differences that your invention has over what is already known?
This is where the requirement of Non-Obviousness comes in. The patent law does not permit a known invention to be patented.
However, the law goes beyond that. It also does not permit the patenting of an invention which is so close to something that is old that the differences would be obvious. Obvious to who? Obvious to someone skilled in the art to which the invention pertains. This is admittedly and over-simplification of the Non-Obviousness standard. Entire books and treateses have been written on the Non-Obviousness requirements in the patent law.