The goal of patent laws is to promote inventiveness and public disclosure of useful knowledge. In return, inventors are granted exclusive use of their inventions for a specified period. To obtain a typical patent, U.S. law requires proof that an invention is:
  • a new and useful process, machine, manufactured item, or chemical substance;
  • novel (never before described or existing in nature in the described form); and
  • nonobvious.

Patents are not allowed on ideas per se, only the application of an idea. Nor can discoveries of natural phenomena be patented. So a naturally occurring molecule cannot be patented, nor can a gene in a chromosome. But slightly alter the molecule, or isolate the DNA of the gene, and a patentable invention may now exist.

The patent process begins with an application that:

  • lists the inventor(s);
  • includes an oath signed by the applicant(s) stating the belief that they are the original and...

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