A Brief Guide to Patentability for California Businesses

A patent is a legal tool that allows you to have exclusive rights to an invention for a period of time. It requires that you disclose the details of the invention to the public by filing a patent with the U.S. government. Patents allow inventors to control who uses their ideas and permits them to derive monetary value from the invention. Without a patent, someone else could easily copy the design and market it themselves.

Knowing the basics of patents can be a good foundation for your business. It will help you determine when and why you need a patent and how to start the process of obtaining one.

When Is Something Patentable?

Patents can cover all inventions, but you may be surprised to learn what is considered an invention. An invention can be a new product, but it can also be a new process or solution to a problem. An invention must generally be novel, useful, and non-obvious, but those are the only real requirements.

You should check to see if your particular idea qualifies for a patent by considering the following.

  1. If your idea is a law of nature, abstract idea, or physical phenomena, then it is not patentable.
  2. If your idea is literary, dramatic, artistic, or musical, then you need a copyright, not a patent.
  3. Is the idea useful? It should be both operative and beneficial for your intended audience.
  4. Is the invention offensive to the public morals? If so, it may not be patentable. Anything illegal will not be patentable.
  5. Is your idea novel and non-obvious? You may want to do a search to see if the notion or product already exists or whether it has already been patented.
  6. Can it be adequately described so that someone else could replicate it later?

Remember, only the inventor can apply for a patent in most situations. If the inventor has a contract with your business, however, then you may be able to file the patent as well.

What Is the Basic Patent Process?

You must apply for a patent by filling out an application with the Patent Office. There is a fee required with the application. The patent will include a detailed description of the idea and drawings of the specifications, if applicable.

The application should be extremely detailed, which is why many businesses choose to engage an attorney to help with this process. Failing to include specifics can completely undermine your patent, which means it really serves very little purpose for your business. A better-written patent means better protection.

If your business uses a process or has solved a problem, it may be in your best interest to patent the idea. Integrated Legal Counsel can help with this process. Call 925-399-1529 for more information.

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Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.