When a patent application is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a Patent Examiner, in determining patentability, must find that the invention is:
  1. useful
  2. novel, and
  3. non-obvious.
The invention is useful if it has a present day useful purpose.

Novelty is satisfied unless the Examiner finds a single prior art reference which contains all of the features of the invention which are claimed in the patent application.

In determining whether an invention is obvious, an Examiner may rely on the combined teachings of several patents, printed publications or other prior art references. If a hypothetical person of ordinary skill would view the claimed invention either as an obvious combination of the individual features disclosed in several references, or as an obvious extension of the existing technology, then the Examiner will reject the application as obvious and not patentable. In reality, the determination of obviousness involves subjective judgment regarding, for example, the actual content of the prior art, the level of skill of the ordinary skilled person in the technical field and the reasonableness of combining features from different source references.

Should you decide to file a patent application, I would caution you that, under U.S. law, the application must be filed within one year of the first public use or disclosure, sale or offer for sale of an item embodying the invention. Equally important, many foreign countries require that the patent application be filed before any publication, demonstration, or sale of the device. However, if an application is filed in the U.S. before the first date of any publication, demonstration, or sale, most countries will accord that U.S. "effective filing date" to applications filed in the foreign country within one year. During this one year interval, the benefit of the earlier United States filing date will attach to such foreign patent application. There are a number of strategies for obtaining foreign patents, and if you decide to foreign file, we could tailor a program to your needs.

To be awarded a patent, the inventor cannot have earlier abandoned, suppressed or concealed the invention. This requires that the inventor be diligent in both completing the invention and in filing for patent protection. Further, an inventor should always keep in mind that an earlier filing date is helpful where the patent office has to decide upon which of two pending applications for the same invention should be allowed to issue.

Copyright 1995 Michael J. Colitz, Jr.