The Requirements for Patentability
(1) It must be operable.
(2) It must solve the problem it was designed to solve.
(3) It must provide a minimum benefit to society.
Most inventions meet the utility requirement. Rarely is a de-
vice invented without having a particular use in mind. However, in-
ventions relating to new chemical compounds or genetic sequences
sometimes have difficulty meeting the utility requirement. This usu-
ally occurs when a scientist is exploring a general class of compounds
and a new compound is invented, but its use is not yet identified.
Similarly, inventions relating to chemical processes may not always
meet the utility requirement because it must be shown that the prod-
uct from the process is useful for some specific purpose other than
being an end product of the process. Sometimes, this cannot be
Some people make the mistake of thinking that an invention
must be commercially successful to be useful. This is not true. The
invention does not have to be commercially marketable or have out-
standing performance characteristics to meet the utility requirement.
However, the invention must benefit society in some way. If the in-
vention is considered harmful to the public, then the utility require-
ment is not met. An example of an invention deemed harmful to the
public in 1897 was a slot machine. 6 However, society's standards have
since changed. Today, this type of invention would be patentable be-
cause it provides amusement.
An invention is novel if every element of the invention is not:
9 found in a single prior art reference;