How Do I Know If My Idea Is Patentable?

D'vorah Graeser

If you’re working on a new idea or project, you need to know that you’re investing your time and resources wisely. 

When building their own businesses, a lot of innovators focus on developing their ideas as fast as they can so they can launch, they focus on hiring the right people, on launching the perfect marketing campaign, on making meets end.

But once entrepreneurs start hustling, it’s very easy to overlook something very basic: to prove how unique their ideas are.

We don’t want that to happen to you.

The first step you have to take before throwing yourself into a new idea is to know if it’s patentable. Why? Because if you can patent it, you can prove it’s unique, and, most importantly, you’ll know you won’t be blocked from your own market!

So yes, it’s very important to know if your idea is patentable!

But, how to know if your idea is patentable? Let’s look into that!

#1 The invention must fit into a patentable category

There are three types of patents you can get: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Of course, design and plant patents can be filed but utility patents are the most common. If you have an idea related to tech, you probably need a utility patent.

Talking about utility patents, when you file for one, it needs to fit into one of the USPTO categories. The categories of inventions that can qualify for it include:

  • Hi-Tech, including hardware, software, and electronics
  • Material compositions such as combinations of chemicals, foods, and living organisms
  • Machines, which can be as simple as a wine opener or as complex as a robot
  • Life science technology, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, proteins, and more

If your invention is not related to the technology we described before, it won’t qualify for a patent.

#2 The invention must be new and non-obvious

To qualify for a patent, your invention must be new and non-obvious. It has to be different from anything else that’s currently sold to the public, written or published, or patented. Also, it needs to has a wow factor. In short, it really needs to be inventive.

This is sometimes difficult to know, there are a lot of ideas being published every day. How can you keep up? How can you make sure your idea will stand out?

The best way to make know this information is to make a patent search. The information of every published patent is publicly available. This is great news because you can look into that information and know if there’s something similar to your idea out there.

The only problem is that, since millions of patents have been granted, there is just too much information to analyze. You need to make a search that will actually help you and not overwhelm and confuse you.

You can make an easier patent search by using different tools, here are some of them:

  • The USPTO.gov has a search tool. You can search through records back to 1790 and review patents like your invention and broaden your search in case you’re looking in the wrong place.
  • Google Patents is fast, free, and easy to use. Text-searchable patents also go back to 1790, so this tool is great to find very old prior art. On the downside, it has fewer search fields so it’s difficult to narrow your searches. Also, the most recent patents might not yet be available.
  • Advanced Google Patent Search for advanced searches. This tool is useful if you want to search patents by inventor or specific dates. Looking for patents published by your competitors is also easier. 
  • iSearch.ai is a fantastic new patent search tool, developed by us, that uses AI to search for existing patents based on the description of your idea. Our AI uses the description of your idea to find relevant patents to your idea, uncover competitors, and find potential overlaps. This tool gives you a uniqueness score so you can know how new and inventive your idea is. Finally, you can download a report with all the information you discovered.

Making a patent search is the best way to be sure that your idea is patentable.

#3 The invention must be useful

And last, your invention has to have a specific use. If your idea doesn’t have that (if the invention is abstract), it cannot be patented.

This is super important.

Although you’ll hear a lot of people saying to “patent your idea,” ideas themselves can’t be patented. It’s not enough to think you have a great idea, you need to turn it into a tangible solution.

For example, imagine you always have trouble remembering your annual medical check up. The doctor doesn’t remind you either. Sounds like a missed opportunity. You think there should be a better way to do this. One day you wake up and think that if you could automate medical appointments, everybody would win.

If you went to the patent office wanting to protect that, it wouldn’t work out. You can’t patent that idea.

Instead, you have to find a way to actually solve the problem. You need to think about how you will automate the appointments. And, more importantly, you need to find a novel way to do it (see #2).

In short

how to know if your idea is patentable

Make sure your idea is patentable

This is your takeaway.

If your innovation isn’t patentable, the chances of really making a business out of it are very low. Before investing all of your time and resources into it, make sure you can patent it. Now you know how!

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