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Patenting use of material A instead of B for better performance?

  1. Jan 19, 2012 #1

    I am new to this forum to ask for advice: I have shown experimentally that a very well known material offers great advantages when used as substitute for another material in a range of devices.

    It is not obvious to use this material and because it requires some very specific knowledge about the material properties and it was not used so far.

    So, is there a way to patent substituting material A with B to achieve better performance?

    Is there any literature around, or an example patent, which may help me to decide whether to go on with this idea?

    Thank you so much,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2012 #2


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    Gold Member

    ochrasy, Welcome to Physics Forums. Your idea may be patentable. I spent five minutes using Google to search for "how to patent and idea" and found this:

    "What types of inventions can be patented?

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues three different kinds of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.

    To qualify for a utility patent -- by far the most common type of patent -- an invention must be:
    • a process or method for producing a useful, concrete, and tangible result (such as a genetic engineering procedure, an investment strategy, computer software, or a process for conducting e-commerce on the Internet)
    • a machine (usually something with moving parts or circuitry, such as a cigarette lighter, a sewage treatment system, a laser, or a photocopier)
    • an article of manufacture (such as an eraser, a tire, a transistor, or a hand tool)
    • a composition of matter (such as a chemical composition, a drug, a soap, or a genetically altered lifeform), or
    • an improvement of an invention that fits within one of the first four categories.
    If an invention fits into one of the categories described above, it is known as "statutory subject matter" and has passed the first test in qualifying for a patent. But an inventor's creation must overcome several additional hurdles before the USPTO will issue a patent.

    The invention must also:
    • have some usefulness (utility), no matter how trivial
    • be novel (that is, it must be different from all previous inventions in some important way)
    • be nonobvious (a surprising and significant development) to somebody who understands the technical field of the invention.

    For design patents, the law requires that the design be novel, nonobvious, and nonfunctional. For example, a new shape for a car fender, a bottle, or a flashlight that doesn't improve its functionality would qualify.

    Finally, plants may qualify for a patent if they are both novel and nonobvious. Plant patents are issued less frequently than any other type of patent."

  4. Jan 19, 2012 #3

    As an example, if you discovered that taking aspirin helps prevent heart attacks, you could patent that even though some holds a patent on it as a pain reliever.
  5. Jan 20, 2012 #4
    @Antiphon: Thank you, that's a clear statement. Do you know by chance any example where such a discovery was invented?

    @Bobbywhy: Thanks for your welcome. I have read this page also but I do not understand how substituting a material fits in any of these categories: it's not a new composition, not a machine itself, not a process - is it a article of manufacture?

    *arg* I understand it is an improvement of an invention! The invention has "to fit in one of the categories", not the improvement. I just did not get it :rofl:

    Now, I want to prepare the patent application myself to reduce costs. Does anybody know an example for a "trivial" improvement which was patented? I will find the patent myself when I know what to look for.
  6. Jan 20, 2012 #5


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    Gold Member

    I recommend Nolo to you for all kinds of patent help. I have some experience with them. They publish great material (books) just for what you want to do.

    You can do patent searches to find similiar ones already granted. This is necessary anyway, because if you do decide to file you must supply "prior art", i.e., what's already been done in the same area.

    As for "Is my invention patentable?" I cannot say. But if you start with Nolo (or some other free service) you can probably decide for yourself that it is or is not. If you decide that it is, Nolo helps you through all the steps.

    Another source is the USPO itself! Why not go directly there and study their FAQs at least?

    Good Luck!
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
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