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What Can Be Patented?

Updated: Jan 2

In the dynamic landscape of intellectual property, patents stand as pillars of protection for groundbreaking innovations. Understanding what can be patented is crucial for inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses seeking to safeguard their unique creations. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of patent eligibility, shedding light on the types of inventions that can be granted this exclusive legal right.

The Patent Puzzle

Before embarking on the journey of patentability, it's essential to grasp the fundamental concept of what a patent is. A patent is a form of intellectual property that grants its owner the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a specified period, typically 20 years from the filing date. This exclusivity serves as an incentive for inventors to disclose their innovations to the public, contributing to the overall advancement of technology.

The Criteria for Patent Eligibility

To determine what can be patented, one must navigate the criteria set by patent offices.

The primary criteria include:

1. Novelty

Novelty is a cornerstone of patent eligibility. To qualify for a patent, an invention must be new and not disclosed to the public before the filing date of the patent application. This encourages inventors to push the boundaries of existing knowledge.

2. Non-Obviousness

In addition to being novel, an invention must also be non-obvious. Non-obviousness implies that the invention should not be an apparent or predictable extension of existing knowledge. This criterion aims to reward inventors for innovations that significantly deviate from the norm.

3. Utility

Utility, or practical usefulness, is another critical factor. An invention must serve a practical purpose and provide tangible benefits. Patent offices scrutinize whether an invention has a real-world application and is not merely a theoretical concept.

What Can Be Patented?

A. Products

Products encompass a wide range of tangible items that result from a novel and non-obvious inventive process. This category includes anything from innovative gadgets to pharmaceutical compounds. The key lies in the uniqueness and utility of the end product.

B. Processes

Processes involve methods or techniques that lead to a specific outcome or result. Whether it's a manufacturing process, a method of data analysis, or a new way of delivering services, inventive processes are patentable if they meet the criteria of novelty, non-obviousness, and utility.

C. Machines

Machines refer to mechanical devices or combinations of devices that perform a specific function. From complex industrial machinery to intricate electronic devices, patents can be granted for innovations in machine design and functionality.

D. Compositions of Matter

Compositions of matter involve chemical compounds with unique structures and properties. This category includes pharmaceuticals, polymers, and other substances created through inventive chemical processes.

The Grey Areas: What Cannot Be Patented

While the scope of patentable subject matter is broad, certain categories fall outside its purview. Abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomena are generally not eligible for patent protection. Additionally, inventions lacking practical utility or ones that are offensive to public morality may face challenges in obtaining a patent.


In the ever-evolving landscape of innovation, understanding what can be patented is paramount for those seeking to secure their intellectual property. Navigating the intricate web of patent eligibility involves ensuring novelty, non-obviousness, and practical utility. Whether it's a groundbreaking product, an inventive process, a unique machine, or a novel composition of matter, patents provide a shield of exclusivity for those who dare to push the boundaries of human ingenuity. So, as you embark on your journey of innovation, remember that the key to patent success lies in the art of creating something truly novel, non-obvious, and undeniably useful.


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