A Patent Primer

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 a

Lee Katterman
Sep 3, 1995
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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