A Board Certified Patent Attorney

What is Patentable?

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A lot of people come to my office with ideas they want patented. Some of these ideas are absurd and yet are still candidates for patents. While many other ideas seem to have huge marketplace potential, but are not possible to patent.

So what makes the difference? What kinds of ideas can be patented? And what can’t.

Today, you’ll learn the difference.

patent grantedPatents – “Anything under the sun made by the hand of man…”

The general rule of patents is that they must be created by man.

Here is a short list with explanations.

Mechanical devices and articles of manufacture – The dictionary defines a mechanical device as "a mechanism consisting of a device that works on mechanical principles". Pretty creative, huh? Anyways, if you can make a machine that is new and useful, you can patent it. 

Processes – A process is simply a way of doing things. If you can make a better process for doing something, you have a good candidate for a patent.

Chemical compositions – Many new drugs fall under this category. Arranging chemicals to solve problems and then patenting them is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Computer programs – Amazon.com practically cornered the market when it patented the 1-Click ordering system. Since it owns the patent, no other website can use their proprietary system without paying a royalty and obtaining permission first.

Genetic organisms – This is a neat one and still up for debate in this new era of uncoding DNA.

Improvements – Do you have to have a brand new idea to get a patent? If not, do not dispair.  The vast majority of patents are for existing ideas that are improved.  

Designs (Design Patent – surface ornamentation) – Keeping with the improvement theme, you don’t actually have to make something better to get a patent. You just have to make it look different.

Asexually reproduced plants (Plant Patent) – For the botanist/inventor in you.

That’s about it. Now let’s take a quick look at what you can’t patent.

The following are not patentable:

patent not available

Laws of nature (E=MC2)
Physical phenomena (gravity)
Abstract ideas
Inventions which are:

  • Not useful
  • Not operable (such as perpetual motion machines)
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