What Is Patentable Invention: Everything You Need To Know

What is patentable invention? For an invention to be eligible for patent protection from the USPTO, it must fulfill certain criteria.3 min read

What is patentable invention? For an invention to be eligible for patent protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it must fulfill certain criteria. The most common type of patent is for manufactured items, material compositions, machines, and processes. The invention must be new, non-obvious, and useful. Because the patent process application involves an investment of countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars, it's important to make sure your invention can actually be patented before taking that route.

What Can Be Patented?

As mentioned above, the categories of inventions that can qualify for a utility patent include:

  • Sequences of steps (processes), including computer programs
  • Material compositions such as combinations of chemicals, foods, and living organisms
  • Machines, which can be as simple as an umbrella or as complex as a robot
  • Manufactured products made from raw materials

Some inventions may fit into more than one category. For example, a new type of metal alloy could theoretically receive a patent for the process used to make it, the alloy itself, and a machine it is used to make.

Often, a patent is granted for a component of an invention rather than the total invention. For example, almost every part of a vehicle is covered by a separate patent. The full product is only described in such an application if the patented element solves a specific problem with that product or is designed to work only with that product.

Can My Invention Be Patented?

To determine whether your invention may qualify for a patent, ask the following questions.

  • Is the invention new? To be eligible for a patent, your invention must be different than anything else that is currently sold to the public, written or published about, or patented. You may want to hire a patent agent to conduct a prior art search. This means that the agent will review patents, inventions, and published works in your field to determine whether your invention is truly new.
  • Does the invention have utility? If your invention doesn't have a specific use, it cannot be patented. This is usually the easiest test for the invention to pass since most products are created to benefit the public or a specific industry. Under this test, items that do not qualify for patent protection include abstract ideas, natural discoveries, and natural phenomenon. As part of the prior art search, your patent agent can find supporting documentation about how your product solves a problem or fulfills a need that has not yet been addressed by other inventions.
  • style="display: block; border: medium none; height: 0px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; position: relative; visibility: visible; width: 617px; background-color: transparent; overflow: hidden; opacity: 0;">