What Cannot Be Patented? Explore The Boundaries Of Patentability

Have you ever wondered what can and cannot be patented?

Patents are legal documents that grant the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, or sell their invention for a limited period of time.

Patents are designed to encourage innovation and creativity, but not everything can be patented.

In this article, I will explain the criteria for patentability, the types of inventions that can be patented, and the types of inventions that cannot be patented.

What Cannot Be Patented?Courtesy:HavingIP
What Cannot Be Patented?
Courtesy:HavingIP

Criteria for Patentability

To be eligible for a patent, an invention must meet four criteria:

  • Novelty: The invention must be new and not previously disclosed to the public.
  • Non-obviousness: The invention must not be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the field of the invention.
  • Utility: The invention must have a practical use.
  • Patentable subject matter: The invention must fall into one of the four categories of patentable subject matter, which are: processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter.

These criteria are applied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the agency that is responsible for granting patents in the United States.

The inventor must submit a patent application to the USPTO, which includes a detailed description, drawings, and claims that define the scope of the invention.

The USPTO then examines the application and determines whether the invention meets the criteria for patentability.

Types of Inventions that Cannot Be Patented

Not all inventions can be patented. The USPTO excludes certain types of inventions from patentability.

These include:

  • Laws of nature: Natural phenomena, such as gravity or the laws of thermodynamics, cannot be patented. They are considered to be the basic building blocks of science and technology, and are not the result of human intervention.
  • Abstract ideas: Concepts or ideas, such as mathematical formulas or algorithms, cannot be patented. They are considered to be the product of human thought, and are not tied to any specific application or implementation.
  • Physical phenomena: Naturally occurring phenomena, such as earthquakes or lightning, cannot be patented. They are considered to be the result of natural forces, and are not the result of human intervention.
  • Products of nature: Naturally occurring substances, such as minerals or plants, cannot be patented. They are considered to be the result of natural processes, and are not the result of human intervention. However, if a substance is isolated, purified, or modified in a way that gives it a new property or function, it may be patentable.
  • Moral, ethical, or public policy issues: Inventions that are considered immoral, unethical, or harmful to public health and safety cannot be patented. For example, human cloning, nuclear weapons, or gambling methods are not patentable.

Some examples of inventions that cannot be patented

  • The Pythagorean theorem: Discovered by Pythagoras in the 6th century BC, the Pythagorean theorem is a mathematical formula that states that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. It is an abstract idea that is not tied to any specific application or implementation.
  • The DNA sequence of a human gene: Discovered by various scientists in the 20th and 21st centuries, the DNA sequence of a human gene is a natural phenomenon that is not the result of human intervention. It is a product of nature that is not isolated, purified, or modified in a way that gives it a new property or function.
  • The E=mc2 equation: Discovered by Albert Einstein in 1905, the E=mc2 equation is a physical phenomenon that states that the energy of a system is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared. It is a natural phenomenon that is not the result of human intervention. It is a law of nature that is not tied to any specific application or implementation.

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