You are here:

FREE Newsletter

Newsletters & RSSEmail to a friendAdd to

How To Qualify For a Patent

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
Find out if your idea can be patented. This How To refers to utility patents which cover the majority of inventions.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Variable

Here's How:

  1. Determine that your idea is not one of the following: a law of nature, physical phenomena or abstract idea. This means, for example, that you can't patent math, herbs as a new medicine or lightening.
  2. Determine that your idea is also not a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. These can be copyright protected but not patented.
  3. Decide if your invention is useful. The term useful means that your idea will have a useful purpose and will be operative. That is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful.
  4. To the best of your ability, decide if your invention is not offensive to public morality. If it is intended for only illegal purposes it will fall into this category.
  5. Determine if it is novel. No one else can have known, used, patented or described in printed publication the invention before you did, in the U.S or abroad.
  6. Ditto for yourself for step 5 -- no public disclosure more than one year prior to your application for a U.S. patent.
  7. The invention must be sufficiently different (nonobvious) -- a surprising and significant development to a person having skill in the same technology field as your product. You can invent another mousetrap, if it is a better one.
  8. Ask yourself if your invention can be adequately described or enabled -- can someone in the same field make and use it?
  9. Can you make your claim to the invention in clear and definite terms? A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion and to obtain a patent, you need to be able to describe all aspects of your invention.
  10. Only the inventor can apply for the patent. There are some exceptions -- if the inventor is dead, insane or refuses to file and is under contract to others.


  1. Utility patents are for either a: process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or an improvement of any of the above.
  2. Patent protection is also available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture (design patent) or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents (plant patent).
  3. Determine if your invention is novel by doing a "prior art" or patent search, find out if someone else has already patented your idea. An inventor or hired professional can conduct a search of the USPTO records.

Important disclaimer information about this About site.

All Topics | Email Article | |
Our Story | Be a Guide | Advertising Info | News & Events | Work at About | Site Map | Reprints | Help
User Agreement | Ethics Policy | Patent Info. | Privacy Policy | Kids' Privacy Policy

©2006 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
Mental Health

Depression Self-Test Vitamins for Depression? Bipolar Red Flags Coping With Disasters Celebrities With Bipolar

What's Hot

Gyroscopes - Elmer Sperry and Charles Stark Draper Gyroscope...Angel AlcalaThe History of the BikiniRusi Taleyarkhan Jack Johnson