What can you Patent

What Can You Patent? What Can’t Be Patented?

One of the most important parts of the invention process is ensuring that your idea or invention is unique and cannot be copied. Protecting your idea or invention is often done through a patent. To be able to patent something, an idea must be new or novel, involve an inventive step and be non-obvious. What exactly does non-obvious mean? Non-obvious means that your idea must not be blatant or a “given” to someone within the same industry based on their experience or knowledge. In other words, it has to be a truly unique and legitimate invention rather than an idea or invention that someone with similar skills and experience can easily reproduce and use.

With this in mind, patents are vital for inventors seeking to protect their ideas and inventions. What exactly can be patented? What can’t be patented? While certain countries have exclusions on items being patented for practical measures (i.e. safety, well-being, ethics and morality) such as nuclear bombs, you will be surprised to discover the variety of things that can be patented.

Let’s first begin with the basics required for an item or an idea to be patentable:

1. The idea must be new or novel.

In other words, the idea or invention must be unique. The invention must not have been made in public in any way, shape or form (i.e. no one knows about it yet or has seen it to create something similar). In addition, the invention must not have been made in any location or on any date prior to the date on which the application for the patent is filed.

2. The idea must involve an inventive step.

Not only does the idea or invention require your contribution, it must not be obvious. The invention must not be obvious to others with good working knowledge and experience of the subject of the patent. For example, if your invention involves the improvement of a car safety feature, the invention must be unique and inventive so that you coworker or someone also in the automotive industry would not be able to mimic or mirror the invention with ease based on their experience or ability.

3. The idea is capable of industry or useful application.

The invention or idea must be capable of being made and ultimately used in some kind of industry. In other words, the idea can be made into a tangible application, device, or product that can be used by others.

With these basic requirements in mind, let’s take a look at what can and can’t be patented.


What can be patented?

  • Process
  • Machine
  • Article of matter
  • Composition of Matter
  • Improvements in any of the above: processes, machines, articles of matter and compositions of matter

What can’t be patented?

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works
  • Non useful inventions
  • Ideas or inventions that are offensive to public morality

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