What can and cannot be patented?

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What can and cannot be patented?

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What can be patented?

First, utility patents are provided for a new, nonobvious and useful:

  • Process
  • Machine
  • 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 are:
    • Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
    • Offensive to public morality

Invention must also be:

  • Novel
  • Nonobvious
  • 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
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