Information for First Time Inventors
Every time a person comes up with a solution to a problem, there is potentially a patentable invention. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has taken an “everything new under the sun” approach to patentability. They are patenting things that are “cutting edge”, as far as Canada is concerned, such as: life forms (the Harvard mouse), ways of doing business especially in relation to the internet (Amazon.com, Cybergold.com, and realage.com patents), innovative algorithms in computer software, computer game and board game themes. Inventions do not occur in a vacuum. There is always some background of previous patents that is “prior art”. Most patents are granted for incremental improvements. These improvements have commercial value as they provide better performance or lead to a better result.
The Patent Office applies three patentability tests, two of which are very straight forward. Firstly, the solution to the problem must be new. You pass this test if the Patent Examiner is unable to find a single patent that suggests the same solution to the same problem. Secondly, the solution must be useful. You pass this test if the problem is clearly identified in the Patent Application, along with the manner in which your solution solves that problem. Thirdly, the solution must not be “obvious”. You pass this test if the Patent Examiner is unable to use the patent office as a library to combine “teachings” from two or more patents to arrive at your invention.
Canada and the United States have a time limit of one year from the date of first public exposure within which to obtain patent protection. Most other countries in the world require that a patent application be filed before any public disclosure has taken place.