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Patent law: What does it mean for your idea to be useful?

In patent law, your idea must be useful, novel and non-obvious in order for you to receive a patent. In this article, we will discuss specifically what it means for a patent to be "useful."

In the context of patent law, "useful" means that your subject to be patented needs to have a purpose that's useful. It also refers to the item being operable and in working condition. It's not enough, for example, to have an idea for an invention, but the actual item does not work for its intended purpose; this would, in effect, make it "unuseful."

The "usefulness" of a particular item to be patented, however, could be subject to debate. For example, how useful would a corkscrew be to someone who has never seen or used one before? In this respect, the corkscrew, its intended purpose and its usefulness would need to be well-argued and explained.

Here are three guidelines that you'll want to keep in mind when proving the usefulness of your patented subject:

  • Someone with ordinary skill in the area of the subject to be patented must be able to appreciate its usefulness immediately.

  • The item to be patented needs to only have one substantial utility.

  • When an item is rejected for not being useful, the rejection must be explained in detail by the patent examiner.

Do you feel that your item to be patented qualifies as "useful?" You may want to employ a patent attorney to help present your case for a patent in a legally compelling and well-organized way that will help you get approved.

Source: FindLaw, "Patents: Make Sure Your Idea is Useful, Novel, and Non-Obvious," accessed July 27, 2017

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