What cannot be patented?

Glenn W. Peterson

If you want to patent an invention or discovery in California, then it helps to understand what cannot be patented. The law is very specific when it comes to patents. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states that in general almost anything created by man and any processes used to create such items can be patented. However, there are exceptions, and it is important to understand them so you don’t waste time trying to get a patent for an unqualified item or process.

Based on laws and court rulings, some things that cannot be patented include abstract ideas, laws of nature and physical phenomena. In addition, any invention that uses nuclear material or atomic weapons is also not eligible to be patented.

Inventions must be new. If you have published or otherwise made your invention public prior to obtaining a patent, then it is not eligible. You also cannot patent something that someone else has created, even if that invention does not have protection.

A strict rule of patents is that the item must be useful. This means it has to be proven that the invention will work and can be used. It cannot be just an idea for something that may be useful. A good example is an invention of a machine. It must be shown that the machine has been built and actually works in order for it to be eligible for a patent. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.