When Is an Idea Eligible for a Patent?

3 minutes

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Andrew Rapacke is a registered patent attorney and serves as Managing Partner at The Rapacke Law Group, a full service intellectual property law firm.
When Is An Idea Eligible For A Patent?

You’ve said for years that you have the next great idea. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and you have something the world has never seen.

When does an idea go from a spark to a patentable concept? We are going to help you determine if you have a patentable idea. Knowing when to patent your idea will give you the protection you need to further develop your idea without fear of someone stealing your idea.

In the past, patents were granted on a first to invent basis. This has changed, however, and now it is first to file. If you fail to file your idea in a timely manner, you risk losing out to someone else.

What Type of Patent Is The Best Fit?

There are three types of patents available for you to apply for. Which one you will choose will depend on your idea or invention.

Utility patents are for inventors or discoverers of a new useful processor machine. These patents are about usefulness and function.

Design patents are for inventors who create a new ornamental design. These patents are more about looks and design than the actual functioning of the invention.

The third type of patent is a plant patent. These are for anyone who asexually produces a new variety of plant that they have either inventoried or discovered.

Basic Patent Requirements

For the USPTO to accept your patent application, it needs to satisfy some basic requirements. Compare your idea to this list.

  • It is “novel”
  • It is “non-obvious”
  • It is useful or provides a “utility”
  • You haven’t disclosed it to the public before filing your application

In addition to these requirements, if you can answer yes to the following questions, then your idea is a solid candidate for a patent.

Is It Your Idea?

You can only apply for a patent for your own inventions and ideas. It doesn’t count if you merely contributed financially to the invention.

If you created your idea through the course of your employment you need to check your employment contract. While the patent may get issued in your name, it is likely that your employer owns the patent.

Is It Useful?

Your invention must be useful. Can someone use your idea or does your idea provide a benefit to someone?

While this is a requirement that most inventions pass easily, there are some quirks to the rule. For example, the perpetual motion machine was deemed to not be useful and therefore not eligible for a patent.

Do You Need a Patent and Not a Copyright?

One common mistake people make is that they apply for a patent when they actually need a copyright. A patent protects an invention. A copyright protects the expression of an idea.

Copyrights are common for artistic endeavors such as books, movies, and computer programs.

Your Idea Is Not a Process

Some inventions are not eligible for a patent because they have been expressly excluded by law. You cannot patent laws of nature or physical phenomena. You also can’t patent an abstract idea.

You can get a patent for these types of inventions though:

  • Article of manufacture (a tool to help get a job done)
  • A new composition (an artificial creation like pharmaceuticals or makeup)
  • A machine (mechanical parts performing a function)
  • A process or method (engineering method, business process, or computer software)

It’s Not Already Patented

To be novel, the idea must be new. For your idea to be considered new, it must not have been patented before or exposed to the public.

This is a stringent requirement, and many patents get denied because of exposure to the public. This is where a patent attorney can be helpful. They can do the necessary research to make sure your idea qualifies as novel.

Your Idea Is Non-Obvious

Your idea needs to be not obvious to a person of ordinary skill and knowledge. It can’t be something that people already know about.

If your idea is specific to a particular field, then the threshold for non-obvious is contained to that field. Would someone working in the industry already know about your idea.

Patent Your Idea

If you have worked your way through these questions and answered yes, then you have a great idea that is ripe for patenting. The sooner you file your application the sooner you have protection from others who may have come up with the same or similar idea.

We can help you through the patent application process. Our firm has extensive experience in assisting inventors in creating the best application possible.

Schedule a free consultation today to see if your idea or invention is patentable.

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