When it comes to patents, you are able to patent essentially anything that can be made by human hands and is an original invention, idea, or thought. Exceptions to what can be patented includes the following:
- Laws of nature
- Physical phenomena
- Abstract ideas
Even if you were to come up with a useful and brand new scientific discovery that hadn’t ever been thought of by anyone else, you still cannot legally patent it. The reason for this is you didn’t actually create the idea that you discovered – it always existed and you just happened to be the first one to notice it. On the other hand, coming up with an invention that was to make use of your discover would be a much different story, and would almost certainly be able to be patented.
Under patent law, physical phenomena is classified as products of nature. This means that in the event that your invention takes place in nature, it is still considered to be a physical phenomenon and, legally, cannot be patented.
When it comes to living things, patents are questionable. For instance, if you have an invention that falls under a product of nature, then it will fall under excluded subject matter. On the other hand, having an invention that doesn’t occur naturally and that exists only through some work on your part means you can possibly obtain a patent.
This means, for instance:
- You would be unable to patent a species of mouse running around your lab.
- You would be able to patent a mouse that you genetically engineered to be used in cancer research.
- You would be unable to patent a combination of various bacteria containing beneficial properties if this same combination also occurs elsewhere in nature.
- You would be able to patent a bacterial species genetically altered by you as a way to solve an issue if it didn’t occur naturally elsewhere.
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