Patent Basics: what is patentable?

The federal statute that governs what is patentable is, 35 U.S.C. Section 101 which reads: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent…”  According to the USPTO’s website that includes “practically everything that is made by man [or woman] and the processes for making the products.”

Of course, in order to be patentable, an invention must also be new, useful and non-obvious.  In order to be considered “useful,” the invention must have a purpose and be operable.  Just about any “purpose” will do other than only being useful as landfill.  The invention as described must also be operable in order to be considered useful.

There are certain things that are just not patentable including: laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas or purely mental processes.  It is also worth noting that mere “ideas” or “suggestions” are not patentable.  A patent will only be granted if the invention is workable as described in the application.  Independent inventors sometimes need help turning their ideas into workable inventions.  If an inventor is concerned, consulting with an engineer or product designer can be a useful step.

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