Find out if your idea can be patented. This "How To" refers to utility patents which covers the majority of inventions.
Difficulty Level: Hard Time Required: NA
- Determine that your idea is not one of the following: a law of nature - physical phenomena - 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.
- To the best of your ability decide if your invention is useful. The term "useful" means has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, 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 - inventions intended for only illegal purposes.
- Determine if your invention 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.
- Determine if your invention is nonobvious. The invention must be sufficiently different - a surprising and significant development to a person having skill in the technology field of your invention. 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 the invention.
- Ask yourself if you can 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. Software may qualify for a patent if the patent application produces a useful, concrete and tangible result.
- 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).
- You should determine if your invention is novel by doing a "prior art" or patent search. This is to determine if someone else has already patented your idea. An inventor or hired professional can conduct a search of the United States Patent Office records.