What inventions can be patented?
The question “what is patentable” is a complicated one. Here is a simplified answer.
In order to be patentable, an invention must pass four tests:
The invention must fall into one of the five “statutory classes” of things that are patentable:
- manufactures (that is, objects made by humans or machines),
- compositions of matter,
- and new uses of any of the above.
- The invention must be “useful”. One aspect of the “utility” test is that the invention cannot be a mere theoretical phenomenon.
- The invention must be “novel”, that is, it must be something that no one did before.
The invention must be “unobvious” to “a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains”. This requirement is the one on which many patentability disputes hinge.
What does “obvious” and “unobvious” mean :
There is much misunderstanding over what “unobvious” means in the U.S. . The level of unobviousness required to render an invention patentable is a function of the particular art area containing the invention. An experienced patent attorney or agent will often be able to give some indication of the likelihood of a particular invention being held obvious or unobvious. In some cases the unobvious part of an invention (the part that renders the invention patentable) is simply identifying the problem, even if the solution is obvious once the problem has been identified.