Well-funded start-ups in Minneapolis likely need at least one or more patents to protect their intellectual property. There are five requirements that must be met to obtain a patent: patentable subject matter, utility, novelty, nonobviousness and enablement. This post will provide a general overview of this topic, but as always, this post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice.
Patentable subject matter
A subject matter that is patentable is defined as any process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter or improvement of matter. However, the Supreme Court has stated that the laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matters. There is a distinction between products of nature and human-made objects. However, systems of conducting business are a process that can be patented even though there is no tangible item at issue. Printed matter can also be patentable if it is related to a physical invention and it is either new and useful or new and non-obvious.
Patents must be for inventions that are useful. This means the item being patented has a credible, specific and substantial purpose. Utility must be specific to the item being patented; general utility that applies to a broad class of items will not suffice.
The novelty requirement has two parts: novelty and statutory bars to patentability. Novelty means the invention was not known or used by others; that is, it must be new. The statutory bar requires that the patented item must not have already been in public use or for sale in the U.S. for more than one year prior to the date the patent was applied for.
Patents must be nonobvious. A patent claim is nonobvious if the improvement goes beyond the predictable use of prior art according to its established functions.
To meet the enablement requirement, the patent application must include a written description of the item being patented, including the manner and process of making and using it. Such writings must be full, clear and concise, so that those with ordinary skill in the art would be able to reproduce and use the item without undue experimentation. The writings must also include a disclosure of the best mode of practicing the invention.
Learn more about patents
This is only a brief overview of patent requirements. Our firm’s webpage on patents has further information on this topic that readers of this blog may find useful.