How Does Patenting Work?

The first step in the patenting process is to come up with some great ideas for an invention. To get a patent on your invention, you must show that it is new and useful and not obvious. You must also describe how to make and use the product or process in detail.

Your idea for an invention can be as simple as a new way to use something already known or as complex as a whole new piece of equipment. Once you’ve got an idea, you need to determine whether it’s novel and nonobvious.

If your idea has been tried before by someone else, it’s not automatically invalidated — but it does give one of two reasons for rejection:

Novelty: The claim does not contain any features that are novel over prior art.

Nonobviousness: The claim lacks nonobviousness (or “inventive ingenuity”) over prior art.

If you have an idea for an invention, the key to determining whether your idea is novel and nonobvious is to make sure it’s not something that someone else has already tried. If you’re not sure, check with a patent attorney or do some research at the USPTO website. If your idea is novel and nonobvious, you can move on to the next step. If it’s not, you need to think of a new way to approach the problem or find a different solution altogether.

If you’re still not sure if your idea is novel and nonobvious, there are other ways to check. Ask yourself: Is this something that the average person, who’s familiar with the field in which I’m working, would consider obvious? If so, it’s probably not novel or inventive enough to qualify for a patent.

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