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You have an idea, you think it is great, and you want to patent it...
But can you?

While exact patent laws can vary significantly between countries, there are a few universal ideas that govern whether an idea can be patented.

1. Is it New? and 2. Is it Non-Obvious?

Generally, your idea must be a new idea, or a novel improvement over an older idea, to be able to be patented. Something 'new' must have happened - it is hard to patent something that is just two other things stuck together... There has to be an 'inventive step' (non-obvious), which shows that the design is yours!

Prior Art

Would AI be prior art?
There is the idea of 'prior art', which refers to any sort of historical showing of the concepts of your idea, whether it be written, a picture, a visual reference, or something that in some way shows your idea. For instance, in the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey', the crew were using what looked like iPads... Which created a bit of an argument years later when Apple tried to enforce their patent of the iPad, where the defending company argued that the iPad was based on prior art, and as such was not Apple's idea anyway, and as such should not have been able to have been granted a patent to! While this was ultimately ruled out, it shows that this sort of reasoning can be used to express the idea of 'prior art'. (

Registered Patents

The idea of a patent register is in place to ensure that there is only one of each patent registered, and that the claims are not doubles up amongst patents. Has the idea been patented before? Or has there been something similar patented before? It is a good idea to do your own initial patent search to find patents that may have similar claims (or same claims) to that which you are trying to patent. Some great sites for this include google patents (, and the USPTO (

Claims are King!

Remember - it is the CLAIMS of a patent that will be patented, so you may be able to still patent part of your design, even if other parts are taken up by other patents! But watch out, as your claims may be spread across a few different patents...

Powers of Attorneys

Following up form your own search, you will need a patent attorney (or someone versed in patent law) to complete a search also, as they have plenty of experience in searching for 'similar' ideas, and will be able to give you a good judgement on whether your idea is patentable!

3. Is it Statutory?

Your idea must be patent-able! If your idea is covered by another strain of intellectual property protection (such as trade marks, copyright, design law...), then you cannot patent this! Your patent must be for an invention of some sort, that has been invented, and is an actual 'thing'.

Perpetual Motion is harder than it looks...

4. Is is USEFUL?

Usefulness of a broad term, and can be interpreted in many ways... And this restriction is not here to stop you from patenting something that will be (or could be) used - but it is here to stop people from patenting things that can not be used, or can not be created. By this, I mean things that are concepts of the imagination, and ideas that cannot actually be realised. So that perpetual motion machine - can't be patented! You can not disobey the laws of physics, or any other laws - so don't attempt to get a patent for things that do...


Outside of these, you are very much free to apply for your patent! The process is long, costly, and potentially very stressful, but if you stick with it, I am sure you will get there in the end. 
Now get out there - and invent!


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