What can be patented?
Utility patents are available for a new, nonobvious and useful:
• Article of manufacture,
• Composition of matter, or
• Improvement of any of the above
Patent protection is also available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties.
What cannot be patented:
• Laws of nature,
• Physical phenomena,
• Abstract ideas,
• Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these may be protected under copyright law), or
• Inventions which are 1) not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or 2) offensive to public morality.
To be patentable, your invention must also be:
• Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention), and
• Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms
How do I know if my invention is patentable?
First, review the list of what can and cannot be patented and determine if your invention falls into one of those categories.
Next, a search of all previous public disclosures (prior art) including, but not limited to, previously patented inventions in the U.S. should be conducted to determine if your invention has been publicly disclosed and thus is not patentable. A search of foreign patents and printed publications should also be conducted. After an application is filed, the USPTO will conduct a search as part of the official examination process.
Who can apply for a patent?
A patent may be applied for only in the name(s) of the actual inventor(s).
Practice Tip #1: While performing a search of the prior art before filing an application is not required, it is wise to do so.
Practice Tip #2: You should not assume that your invention has not been patented even if you find no evidence of it being publicly disclosed. The examination at the USPTO may uncover U.S. and foreign patents as well as non-patent literature.
Practice Tip #3: Conducting a thorough patent search is difficult, particularly for the novice. Patent searching is a learned skill. A registered patent attorney is often a useful resource for performance of a patentability search.