Is my idea patentable?


You’ve had a Eureka! moment and decided you want a patent. But is your idea patentable?

We explore three hurdles that your idea needs to jump over to become a granted patent.

Is it technical?

As far back as the 15th Century, patents were regularly granted to new ideas such as glass-making, candle-making, and conveying marble.

Times have changed. Smartphones have arrived. Many ideas not envisaged back then exist now and can be patented but they still need to be technical. But what do we mean by technical and is your idea technical?

Making things stronger, lighter, or faster is often considered technical. BUT, if you’re solving a social problem (connecting people) or a business problem (more profit, less costs) then patent protection might not be for you.

Technical Examples:

  • How to improve the speed of a smartphone
  • How to reduce fuel consumption of a car
  • How to increase the accuracy of a watch

Non-technical Examples:

  • How to play poker
  • How to lay out a website
  • How to improve profit margins

Well, you’ve made it over hurdle number one! What next?

Is it new?

Your idea is technical, a good start! It must also be new. But, what does that mean?

If your idea isn’t publicly available anywhere in the world in any language then it’s new.

In practice, whether or not an idea is new is judged on everything public the day before you file your patent application. If it’s different, it’s new. As long as no-one has done it before and you haven’t told anyone about it, you’ll clear the second hurdle.

After you’ve filed a patent application, you will be free to tell the world about your amazing idea.

Caution! – be sure to consider filing an application before you go to that key business meeting or launch your product or you could lack novelty over your own disclosure! This situation is more common than you might think and can prevent you getting a patent.

Is it inventive?

At this stage, your idea is technical and new. Now you need to show your idea is inventive. But how do you do that?

You’ve come up with a new way of doing things or you’ve tweaked something to be better. BUT, is it obvious to take what’s known and change it in the way you did? If not, you’ll be inventive and you’ll have cleared hurdle number three!

You no doubt think your idea is a revolutionary game-changer, and it may well be. Or maybe you think it’s obvious to do what you’ve done – but you did it, so of course you’d think that! Either way, the law might see things differently! At this stage, it’s helpful to chat to a patent professional who can talk to you about this in more detail.

However, to get you started we set out a few useful pointers that can indicate that your idea is inventive:

  • Does it go against industry conventions?
  • Are you taking concepts from a distant technical field and applying it to your own?
  • Were the advantages surprising even to you?

You can be inventive for lots of reasons, so if the answer to these questions is no – never fear, hope is not lost!

If it’s not obvious, you’ve cleared three major hurdles to patent protection! For more guidance on these points, contact a patent professional and look to get that patent application filed.

Answer last updated: 17 Jan 2018