Patent FAQ: Is My Invention Patentable?

A patent is a valuable property right because it excludes others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling your invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a certain period of time.

However, before embarking on the patent process, the first step is determine if your invention can indeed be patented.

What Can Be Patented

Utility patents are provided for the following, so long as they are new, nonobvious, and useful:

  • Processes
  • Machines
  • Articles of manufacture (i.e. chairs, shovels, gloves, shoes, envelopes, and mouse-pads)
  • Compositions of matter (defined as the “an instrument formed by the intermixture of two or more ingredients, and possessing properties which belong to none of these ingredients in their separate state”)
  • Improvements of any of the above

In addition to utility patents, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.

What Cannot Be Patented

The following are not afforded patent protection:

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be copyrighted)
  • Inventions that are not useful (the USPTO cites perpetual motion machines as an example)
  • Inventions that are offensive to public morality

How I Can Help

Of course, this post provides only a broad overview of patentability. If you are seeking to patent an invention, it is advisable to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.


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