Patentable or Not? What can you patent?

Can you patent that?

“Patentable?” This is one of the most common questions we get from new clients. The question may relate to whether their invention is novel or nonobvious. Sometimes, what they are asking is whether the subject matter is even eligible for patent protection. I’ll try to tackle some of the broad categories of inventions that are eligible for patenting in the US.

Need to apply for a patent? Email Vic at or call (949) 223-9623 to request a fixed fee cost estimate for filing your patent application. 

Keep in mind the following general categories of patentable subject matter:

  • process
  • machine
  • article of manufacture
  • composition of matter
  • any new and useful improvement of the above

If you are serious about patenting, don’t forget that it’s a race to the USPTO and you cannot apply for an invention that you publicly disclosed more than a year ago.

Is a game patentable?

Yes, it may be possible to apply for board games, card games and even other sorts of games. Focus on the game rules and articulate how and why your game is different than existing games.

Is a recipe patentable?

Yes, but it may be challenging to show that a recipe is nonobvious, even if the recipe may be new. Remember that anything you’ve sold or publicly disclosed for more than one year would not be patentable.

Can you patent a mobile app or desktop app?

Yes, see this post on patenting software. You may have hurdles to overcome, such as rejections based on ineligible subject matter.

Is a user interface (GUI) patentable?

Yes, UI and UX features are patentable. You can apply for a design patent to protect the ornamental appearance of graphical user interfaces (GUI), i.e., icons. Utility patent protection may be available for new technologies and functional features.

Is a different use for an existing product patentable?

Technically, it is possible to patent a new use of an existing product. Realistically, it might not be worth applying because you would have to show that the new use is nonobvious. Even if you believe your use to spectacularly nonobvious, expect an uphill battle. USPTO patent examiners will likely make it difficult for utility patent applications directed to new uses of existing products.

Are improvements to existing products patentable?

Yes. In fact, the vast majority of patents cover improvements over preexisting products and inventions.

Can you patent a new process for making an old product?

Yes. It would definitely help to describe in detail any key steps that distinguish your process over prior art manufacturing processes, and tie those steps to any benefits (e.g., reduction in costs or time).

Can you get patents for new combinations of existing technologies?

A new combination of existing technologies might be patentable. You would most likely need to overcome rejections based on obviousness.

Can you patent a fashion accessory or article of clothing?

In most cases, a fashion accessory or piece of clothing may be protected with design patents. If your fashion product or article of clothing has some unique functional features, then a utility patent application may also make sense.

Is your invention patentable?

Email Vic at or call (949) 223-9623 to take the next steps to protect your invention. We can discuss whether a utility or design patent would be most appropriate, the cost of a patentability search and the process of filing the right type of patent application.

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