Find out if your idea can be patented. This How To refers to utility patents which cover the majority of inventions.
Time Required: Variable
- Determine that your idea is not one of the following: a law of nature, physical phenomena or abstract idea. This means, for example, that you can't patent math, herbs as a new medicine or lightening.
- Determine that your idea is also not a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. These can be copyright protected but not patented.
- Decide if your invention is useful. The term useful means that your idea will have a useful purpose and will be operative. That is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful.
- To the best of your ability, decide if your invention is not offensive to public morality. If it is intended for only illegal purposes it will fall into this category.
- Determine if it is novel. No one else can have known, used, patented or described in printed publication the invention before you did, in the U.S or abroad.
- Ditto for yourself for step 5 -- no public disclosure more than one year prior to your application for a U.S. patent.
- The invention must be sufficiently different (nonobvious) -- a surprising and significant development to a person having skill in the same technology field as your product. You can invent another mousetrap, if it is a better one.
- Ask yourself if your invention can be adequately described or enabled -- can someone in the same field make and use it?
- Can you make your claim to the invention in clear and definite terms? A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion and to obtain a patent, you need to be able to describe all aspects of your invention.
- Only the inventor can apply for the patent. There are some exceptions -- if the inventor is dead, insane or refuses to file and is under contract to others.
- Utility patents are for either a: process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or an improvement of any of the above.
- Patent protection is also available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture (design patent) or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents (plant patent).
- Determine if your invention is novel by doing a "prior art" or patent search, find out if someone else has already patented your idea. An inventor or hired professional can conduct a search of the USPTO records.