Can I Patent my Idea?

What can a patent cover? What does it not cover?

A guide to what can or cannot be patented.

A granted patent gives the right to prevent another from practising the invention covered in the patent claims. Typically the claims cover how an invention or a product works, what they do, how they do it, what materials they are made from and/or how they are manufactured. A granted patent gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without their permission and is a legally enforceable document typically renewable for up to 20 years.
To qualify for patent protection in much of the world the invention must:

  • be new
  • have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge in the subject
  • be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry
  • In addition the invention must not be:

  • a scientific or mathematical discovery, theory or method
  • a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work
  • a way of playing a game or doing business
  • a method of medical treatment or diagnosis
  • against public policy or morality.
In the US the exceptions are fewer, namely for patentability the invention must not be:
  • nothing more than an abstract idea
  • law of nature
  • or natural phenomenon

In some cases a registration of the design (a Design Patent in the US) may be more helpful and also cheaper. If the visual appearance is the most (or only) important factor in your new idea or for how it does its job then there are unlikely to be any other ways of visualising the idea this could be applicable.

Many new ideas are launched with very little protection but under a strong trademark. Confidentiality (or ‘non-disclosure’) agreements are also likely to be of use but may be difficult to get signed or to enforce.

Using a Patent Agent
A guide a choosing and commissioning a Patent Agent
Patent Agents, also known as Patent Attorneys, can be hugely expensive so take some advice before commissioning one to complete and file your patent application. It might be better to self file your patent application...

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