Blog ➥ Category

Published November 2, 2022

Catherine Cavella, ESQ.

Patents are a great tool for innovators. They serve as a means to protect your hard work and creativity. So, if you’re going to use a tool it’s certainly important to know how it works, right?


We hear from clients who don’t truly understand the full scope of patent protection. In general, people assume a patent can only be applied to a specific device or item. They believe the entirety of the object itself will be covered by the patent, but that’s, well, patently false. Let’s clear up some of these misconceptions to provide a clearer view of just how much a patent can do for you and your business.


Patents Cover More Than Just Objects or Devices

As we just noted, a patent doesn’t necessarily cover the entirety of an object. Instead, a patent application can apply to aspects of the object itself while not covering the whole thing. You can have a small part or improvement to a device patented just as you can have the way the device is applied protected by a patent.


For instance, let’s consider a shovel. This is a classic tool and has a pretty straightforward application. But, what if you were to improve the shovel by adding a hinge that allows the shovel head to work at different angles? You can get that aspect of the shovel patented without having to patent the shovel as a whole. Your business may also use shovels in a way never seen before that gives your business a major boost. This application of the shovel can also be protected by a patent.


Now, obviously, this was a nonsensical example but sometimes innovation comes from nonsensical places. Whatever your innovation is you should be considering every aspect of your work and how a patent could protect it.


Patents Can Be Small Changes to Other People’s Work

If you don’t have to patent the whole device then getting a patent for a minor improvement thusly makes sense. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will consider applications for minor changes to an already existing device or object as long as the improvement is unique and notable.


Consider the example of a lighter. At one point in time, if you flipped on a lighter there was no way to adjust the size of the flame. You got what you got at the time and had to live with it. Now, however, you are able to adjust the amount of gas that’s being fed into the flame to create a bigger and more intense flame. There are actually several patents surrounding this advancement, as there are different ways it can be implemented. Each of these different ways is a small change to the pre-existing device of a lighter that creates a new element worthy of patent protection.


Processes Can Be Patented

You don’t work like everybody else. You’ve got unique processes that lead you and your business to success. So, if these processes are unique and give you a leg up on the competition why not protect the way you operate? Good news: You can.


If you take a specific series of actions to generate a specific result then you may be able to get a patent for your process. Computer-implemented processes are frequently covered by patents. The same can be said for just about any series of acts that produce a result or changes a material in a way that isn’t otherwise obvious.


Ultimately, if your process, device, or change is legally “obvious” then you won’t get anywhere with USPTO officials. But what you think is obvious may not be legally obvious, and vice versa. At the end of the day, patents are for innovators, and we believe in your innovation. Contact IP Works Law if you think you have a process or device worth patenting, and we’ll Power Your Ideas®.


The following two tabs change content below.
Since 1992, Catherine Cavella, Esq. Her focus on Trademark Law and Copyright Law for the last few decades gives her deep insights into the fundamental principles behind the rules. Catherine regularly writes about new developments in trademark law, copyright law, and internet law.