At their core, engineers are problem-solvers. Sometimes this may involve reusing an existing tool in a new way. Sometimes it means modifying a tool to do something a little different. If the new use meets a few requirements, engineers or their employers can file for what is known as a utility patent. The factors are:
This might be the easiest part of your new process. If it’s something you developed on your own and no one else is doing it, it’s novel and unique. If this were an “old trick” that others have been using, then it wouldn’t be worth exploring as a patent.
Obviously, you can use the process you developed. What matters is whether or not others can also follow and use the method. If it only helps you, then that’s ok. If it benefits everyone around you and is easy enough to follow, this is the final hurdle. Ease of use for a new process is essential for a utility patent.
If it makes a complicated process more straightforward or more accessible, then the patentability is clear.
This may be the first hurdle for your possible patent. Sometimes solutions seem so obvious that you might never believe someone didn’t come up with it first. However, just because a solution is obvious to you or your employee doesn’t mean it’s actually obvious. The law considers something to be non-obvious if someone of “ordinary skill” in your field could make the invention with available tools.
Usability patents make problem-solving very profitable.
However, if the “obvious” solution to a problem you face isn’t already a standard practice across your industry, it’s possible that it’s not as obvious as you think.