A modern patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention. Patenting allows inventors to make money by selling a license to a company that will produce and market the product.
An issued patent is valid for 20 years from its earliest claimed filing date.
Types of patents
There are three broad categories of patentable subject matter: processes, machines and articles of manufacture and use.
A process could be any method for making, using, or doing something, including software, medical techniques, sports techniques, and others.
Machines include devices and apparatuses.
Articles of manufacture include mechanical devices, electrical and electronic gadgets, medicines, etc.
What You Can’t Patent
Natural processes, such as laws of nature and physical phenomena.
Natural products, such as medicinal herbs or items found in rainforests.
What You Can
You can patent almost anything you have created that meets three basic rules:
Novelty or newness– Your invention has to be something not patented and not described in a publication before. To make sure your invention is novel, you can perform a search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, or visit a Patent and Trademark Depository Library near you.
Non-obviousness or inventive step– An expert in the field should not have thought about it before you did.
Utility or industrial applicability – Your invention has to serve a purpose, even if it’s only a silly one. Wikipedia explains, “Under US law, a claimed invention is deemed useful if, at the time of filing, it is capable of providing some identifiable benefit (to a person of ordinary skill in the art of the invention). The benefit must be specific, substantial, and practical.”