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4. What is a patentable invention?

"Any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof" may be patented. The invention must therefore be at least "new" (i.e., novel) and "useful". (35 U.S.C. Section 101).

"Novel" means that others must not have known the invention or placed the invention in public use in the United States before you filed your patent application, and that others must not have already patented or described the invention in a printed publication anywhere in the world, prior to the filing of the patent application.

Also, the invention must not be "obvious." This means that any changes or modifications you make over any prior products or published designs must not have been obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the industry or trade, at the time of the filing of your patent application.

"Useful" means simply that the invention has a useful purpose, actually works and is not frivolous or immoral.

New categories of products are capable of being patented. For example, computer programs and new business methods involving an innovative system, machine or process are generally patentable, if the above criteria are met.

Of course, the applicant/inventor must describe his or her invention in sufficient detail to enable someone of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention without undue experimentation.



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