What are the legal requirements to get a patent?

There are a lot of requirements, but the two biggest ones are:

  • Novelty: Nobody else in the history of humankind has invented your idea and publicly disclosed it. In other words, you’ve created “the world’s first ___________” (fill in the blank).
  • Non-obvious: If it is novel, then the examiner makes a somewhat subjective judgement as to whether your novel invention is a non-obvious variation over other items similar to your invention. Admittedly, this is a simplified definition of obviousness, but to keep things simple, let’s stick with it.

Unless you are an experienced patent attorney, when trying to determine if patent protection is an option, focus more on novelty as that is easier to understand. Non-obviousness is complicated and not terribly concrete. For example, one examiner may think an invention is obvious while another may not agree.


Steven Saunders is an Intellectual Property Attorney at the Boston-based law firm, Nutter. Steven can be reached at ssaunders@nutter.com.

For more information about Steven, See Steven’s Martin Trust Center Biography at: https://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/profile/steven-saunders/


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