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Patenting Criteria: What Does Novel, Non-obvious, and Useful Mean?

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Patenting Criteria: Novel, Non-Obvious, and Useful

The United States Patent Office (USPTO) grants patents to inventions that meet three main criteria: The invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful.

To be novel, an invention must be substantially different from anything else that is public knowledge. Public knowledge includes anything that has been previously patented, or anything that has been written about in a publication, or anything that is already being sold in the open market.

This is a worldwide review. If your invention is patented in Europe your invention is not novel and will not qualify for a patent. However, an invention can be novel even if it simply combines two existing ideas. For example, A water production machine which uses an air conditioning unit to condense water vapor from the air would be obvious because all air conditioning repair people know that air conditioning units create water from condensing air at the air conditioning coils. However, If the final product is substantially different and putting the two together is non-obvious then you can be eligible for a patent on the device. An example could be a ping pong paddle with a beer bottle opener. If no one has done it before and you can prove that a ping pong paddle with a built in bottle opener is useful then you maybe eligible for a patent. To be non-obvious, the invention must not be easily perceived by a person who has experience in the field of the invention.

To be useful, an invention must work and serve some type of purpose. You would not be able to patent a time machine unless you could get it to work.

After you submit your patent application to the USPTO, it is the job of the patent examiner to determine if your invention meets the three requirements.

What is novel, nonobvious, and useful are categories and a skilled patent practitioner can help you analyze your invention from the perspective of a patent examiner. They can also help you modify your invention to structure your invention so that it is novel, nonobvious, and useful. An experienced patent practitioner helps to structure your invention to be novel, nonobvious, and useful.