Suppose that you have come up with a great idea for a new invention that, to your knowledge, is not currently sold in the market. Since you’ve never seen this kind of invention before, you likely assume that you will easily be able to patent it. However, the requirements of patentability are not quite so simple. Generally, inventions must be new, useful, and non-obvious in order to be patentable. While the “utility” element of patentability is easily met in most cases, the novelty and non-obviousness requirements are a bit more complex. Below, an Alabama patent attorney provides a high-level overview of what a patent applicant must show to obtain a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Subject Matter Eligibility
Section 101 of the Patent Act defines patentable subject matter as “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” These categories encompass the vast majority of human innovation, but not all of it. Inventions that implicate abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomena are excluded from patent protection. These exceptions to patentability arise frequently in the software industry (abstract ideas) and biotechnology industry (laws of nature/natural phenomena).
Novelty, found at § 102 of the Patent Act, requires that patentable inventions be new or different from all other inventions. This body of work, known as “prior art,” includes inventions that are patented, described in printed publications, on sale, in public use, or otherwise known to the public. A patent application may receive a novelty rejection if the invention claimed in it is disclosed either specifically or inherently by a single prior art reference.
Non-obviousness, found at § 103 of the Patent Act, requires that the claimed invention be more than an obvious improvement on the prior art. An invention is obvious if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art would have been obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains. Obviousnesses could occur, for example, if the claimed invention merely combined two or more prior art elements in such a way as to achieve a predictable result.
Section 112 of the Patent Act, known as “specification,” generally concerns the level of detail with which the claimed invention must be described in order for a patent to issue. In addition to offering protection to the patent owner, patents also function as a sort of instruction manual that future inventors can use once the patent expires. As such, the invention claimed in the patent must be described clearly and with enough specificity so as to enable one skilled in the art to which it pertains to make and use it without undue experimentation.
Contact an Alabama Patent Attorney for More Information
For more detailed or specific information about the requirements of patentability, please contact an Alabama patent attorney at Adams IP by calling 251-289-9787 or by using our online contact form. We serve clients throughout Alabama including Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.