Who can apply for a patent?
What can and cannot be patented?
- Article of manufacture
- Composition of matter
- Improvement of any of the above
Note: In addition to utility patents, encompassing one of the categories above, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.
What cannot be patented:
- Laws of nature
- Physical phenomena
- Abstract ideas
- Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected). Go to the Copyright Office .
- Inventions which
- Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
- Offensive to public morality
Invention must also be:
- Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention)
- Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms
How do I know if my invention is patentable?
Second, learn the basics of the patenting process from the materials provided by the USPTO at 800-PTO-9199 or 703-308-HELP or under "General Information." .
Next, a search of all previous public disclosures (prior art) including, but not limited to previously patented inventions in the U.S. (prior art) should be conducted to determine if your invention has been publicly disclosed and thus is not patentable. A search of foreign patents and printed publications should also be conducted. While a search of the prior art before the filing of an application is not required, it is advisable to do so. A registered attorney or agent is often a useful resource for performance of a patentability search. After an application is filed, the USPTO will conduct a search as part of the official examination process. Conducting a thorough patent search is difficult, particularly for the novice. Patent searching is a learned skill. The best advice for the novice is to contact the nearest Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) and seek out search experts to help in setting up a search strategy. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, the USPTO provides public access to collections of patents, trademarks, and other documents at its Search Facilities located in Alexandria, Virginia. These facilities are open weekdays (except holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
We have provided links to the site below because it has information that may be of interest to our users. The USPTO does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on this site. Further, the USPTO does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on this site.
It is possible, however difficult, for you to conduct your own search. For an introduction to patent searching for the novice please refer to the Patent and Trademark Depository at the Richard W. McKinney Engineering Library, the University of Texas at Austin . Although some of the instructions given here may be unique to the Austin library and the focus of this introduction is on the Cassis CD-ROM products, the fundamentals of patent searching remain the same for any location.
You should not assume
that your invention has not
been patented even if you
find no evidence of it being
publicly disclosed. It's
important to remember that a
thorough examination at the
USPTO may uncover U.S. and
foreign patents as well as