What Is Patentable Subject Matter and what it includes?


A patentable subject matter refers to the standards set forth by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). These standards are set for a patent application in order to receive patent protection.

Also, the USPTO law defines patentable subject matter as: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, the machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

In addition, an invention must satisfy 2 criteria in order to qualify as patentable subject matter. One of them is statutory and the other one is judicial. The requirements are:

  • Firstly, the subject matter of the invention should fall under the category of the machine, process, manufacture or composition of matter.
  • Secondly, the subject matter should not fall within the exceptions recognized by the court; that are, physical phenomena, laws of nature, and abstract ideas.

Also Read: Things to Do Before Patenting Something

Patentable Subject Matter: Terminologies

The difference between what patentable subject matter is and what isn’t, is very important to understand.  For this, you are required to know about certain key terms used. They are:

Utility patent preserves the working and use of a particular product or invention. It includes process, machine, products, or matter composition.

Moreover, they are meant for the invention having a useful purpose, for example, a new engine for cars.

A Utility Patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing if you file it after 8 June 1995.

  • Design Patents

The design patent deals with the visual shape or design upgrade to the article of manufacture. It describes a new ornamental feature of the item and protects the way how an invention looks.

The design patents get a time period of 15 years from the date of issue if you file it after 13 May 2015.

For example, you can attain a utility patent for a new function of the watch and you can also attain a design patent for it if you made any new ornamental changes.

  • Plant Patents

You may obtain a Plant Patent if you discover or reproduce (through cross-pollination) a new variety of the plant. The plant should not be present in any uncultivated state.

A Plant patent also has a lifespan of 20 years from the filing date, if filed after 8 June 1995.

You should, next,  decide the type of Patent application once you are done with the type of Patent.

  • Composition of matter:

It is defined as a mixture of material made up of two or more different materials and is patentable. In other words, it is a patentable product of two or more substances. It may be a chemical or mechanical mixture and the substances may be gases, liquids, solids, or even powders.

  • Dominant Patent:

You can file this patent application when there is an upgrade or improvement made to any previously existing patent. The improvement should be new and useful. The existing patent is called the dominant patent and the improvement is called the subservient patent.

  • Process:

It is a series of steps or methods designed to achieve the end product or demand. However, the end result is not likely to be an invention. Thus, it is not required that only the end product can be an invention, a process may also be an invention.

Also Read: Design Patents 101 – Introduction

Patentable Subject Matter: Criteria

Your patent application can be rejected if the invention does not qualify as patentable subject matter according to the USPTO and also the court. Your invention should meet 5 basic criteria for patent eligibility in order to qualify as patentable subject matter, which are:

  • It should be a new and useful machine, manufacture, process, or composition of matter. Also, it excludes patents on laws of nature or universal phenomena.
  • Another criterion is the utility. The subject matter should be useful. However, it only applies to utility patents.
  • The invention should be novel.
  • You should claim a non-obvious invention. That is, the purpose should not be just a logical extension of an already patented invention.
  • The final criterion is that you should not disclose the invention to the public before filing the patent application.

Also, read Patent Search Types – ‘The Major Eight’

Examples of Patentable Subject Matter

Following are some basic examples of patentable subject matter:

  • Machines
  • Electronics
  • Sports gear
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Computer hardware
  • Fabric structures and designs
  • Business processes and methods
  • Computer software with a ” concrete, tangible and useful” outcome

Also Read: Need to implement Patent Watching/Monitoring Service?

Prepare Patentable Subject Matter with The Patent Search Firm

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