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When Does an Invention Qualify as “Useful?”

Ream Law Firm, L.L.C.  Dec. 21, 2022

Patents are a powerful tool for inventors, businesses, and individuals alike. A patent grants its owner the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented invention in the United States and its territories. But not all inventions are eligible for patent protection—to qualify, an invention must meet three criteria: it must be novel, non-obvious, and useful.   

The patent attorney at Ream Law Firm, L.L.C., can explain what makes an invention “useful” in order to qualify for patent protection under U.S. law. The founding attorney – Dale J. Ream – has protected the inventions of individuals and businesses in Kansas City, Missouri, for over 25 years. The law firm also serves clients throughout the Kansas City metro area, including Jackson County in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas.   

What Makes an Invention ‘Useful’?   

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines an invention as “useful” if it performs a specific function or is capable of providing some benefit to the public. To determine whether a given invention meets this threshold, one must consider whether: 

  1. it has a specific purpose that can be performed by no other means;  

  1. there are any tangible benefits of having the invention; and  

  1. any improvements are made to existing products or processes with the use of the invention.   

Simply put, if your invention works in some way to improve upon current technology—either by creating something entirely new or making existing technology more efficient—it may meet the USPTO’s definition of “useful.”  

In addition to being deemed “useful” by the USPTO’s standards, an inventor must also demonstrate that their creation is novel – meaning it has not previously been disclosed in a printed publication or publicly used – in order to receive a patent on their work.  

Furthermore, they must be able to prove that their work was not obvious at the time it was created relative to then-existing knowledge within their field of expertise – a concept known as “non-obviousness.” If these criteria are met, then an inventor may be granted a patent on their work provided they follow all required steps necessary for filing with the USPTO (e.g., filing documents such as a petition and application form).   

What Types of Inventions Are Not Eligible for Patent Protection?  

There are certain types of inventions that may fall short of the above-mentioned criterion and thus be ineligible for patent protection. Examples include:  

  • laws of nature  

  • physical phenomena 

  • abstract ideas 

  • literary works 

  • artistic creations like musical compositions or sculptures 

  • mental processes 

  • presentations of information 

  • methods of doing business 

  • computer programs per se (without additional components) 

  • discoveries unrelated to applications such as medical treatments or uses for natural phenomena like plants or animals  

  • inventions that are solely aesthetic in nature (i.e., those which only serve decorative purposes) 

It is essential to speak with an experienced patent attorney to determine whether or not your invention is “useful” to qualify for patent protection under U.S. law.   

How a Patent Attorney Can Help  

Once you have confirmed that your invention meets these requirements, you must contact experienced legal counsel who can help guide you through the process of obtaining your patent from start to finish so that you can protect your creative work from infringement by competitors or copycats.   

A patent attorney understands the nuances involved in obtaining patents and can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove that your invention qualifies as “useful” and meets other patent requirements. Having a skilled attorney on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your patent application.   

The knowledgeable and results-driven patent attorney at Ream Law Firm, L.L.C., will guide you through the application process and enforce your patent rights.   

Experienced Guidance When You Need It Most  

If you have invented something and are looking for ways to protect your innovation, get experienced guidance from a practiced attorney. The patent attorney at Ream Law Firm, L.L.C., can help you navigate the legal minefield when it comes to obtaining a patent for your inventions. Schedule a free consultation with Attorney Dale J. Ream, Registered Patent Attorney, to discuss if your invention qualifies as “useful” and determine if your idea is worth patenting. He proudly serves clients in the Kansas City metro area, including Jackson County in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas.