Patent applications must be useful, novel and non-obvious

| Feb 19, 2021 | Patent Law |

There are many Morris area residents who have invented something. These inventions are usually unique and useful items that benefit society. Those who come up with an invention want to seek out a patent to protect their invention. But just because a person applies for a patent doesn’t mean they will receive it. There are many stipulations surrounding whether a person receives a patent or not. One of the main requirements is that the law requires the patent application to be a concept, idea or item that is “useful, novel and non-obvious”. But what do these terms really mean?


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states that useful means that the subject matter has a useful purpose. The examination guidelines include:

  • A person of ordinary skill would appreciate why the invention is useful and it is specific, substantial and credible.
  • An application only needs to provide one credible assertion of specific and substantial utility for their invention.
  • Any rejection of the patent based on lack of utility needs to include a detailed explanation.


Patent law describes novel as an originality of an idea. The invention will not receive a patent if:

  • The invention was known in the U.S. before the patent applicant invented it.
  • The invention was patented or described in a printed publication before the patent applicant invented it.
  • The invention was described in a printed publication outside the U.S. more than a year before the patent application.
  • The invention was in public use or sale in the U.S. more than a year prior to the patent application.


This means that the invention has a sufficient difference from what has been used or described before that an ordinary person in the field of the invention would not find it obvious to make the change.

A legal professional who is skilled in patent law can help their client submit a patent application and offer any advice as to how the patent application works and whether their idea will be approved.


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