Patents Require More Than Ideas

Patents Require More Than Ideas by Pat Werschulz

Not every great idea is patentable. Lots of people come to me with some really good ideas, but unfortunately, they don’t pass the test of something that is new and non-obvious.

How does something qualify as new and non-obvious?

I was looking out my window this morning and I saw the leaves starting to fall on the lawn. Many times people will come up with an idea of how to get rid of those leaves that requires adapting a tool that is used to clean the house — like taking a vacuum cleaner and installing a larger engine to handle the leaves.

That idea is not patentable. Why? Increasing or decreasing the size of something doesn’t make it patentable. Changing the size of something that exists is considered obvious. More importantly, the intended use of an invention is not a patentable concept. It all has to do with the structure.

If you take something that already exists and you have the idea of dressing it up a little and using it to do something else that it wasn’t intended for, that may be a great idea — but it’s going to be considered obvious by the Patent Office and not patentable. It’s also going to be considered not novel because the structure already exists.

It doesn’t mean your idea is a bad idea! It just means that it’s not protectable under the patent laws in this country. 

However, if you take a tool or device that is used for one purpose, such as vacuuming, and you increase the size of the motor so you can suck up leaves and you need to modify it so that it works, that modification may be patentable. If you have to come up with a novel way of solving that problem, the solution in combination with the vacuum cleaner or by itself may be patentable.

The irony is that a great idea may have a great market, but not be patentable.  A patentable idea may not have a market. The best result is having a patentable idea that has a great market.

These are important considerations to make before you contact a patent attorney.

Patricia Werschulz

Patricia P. Werschulz
Werschulz Patent Law, LLC
23 North Avenue East
Cranford, NJ 07016
908-313-2347