Patents are similar to trademarks and copyrights in that they have a wide range of intellectual property (IP) that they can protect. Regarding what they cover, they also don’t have a lot of crossover. For most IPs that you can patent, you cannot also trademark or copyright. It’s important to know what you can and can’t patent. 

The patent law attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett have broken down what you can trademark, and now we can break down what you can patent. If you’re looking to make sure that no one else uses your technology and process without your permission, we’ll help you do that.

Patents in the U.S.

Like with trademarks and copyrights, a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) only protects your patents in the U.S., not abroad. If there are markets abroad where you want to file patent applications to protect your current or potential investment, we have partners abroad across many countries that can help. 

Certain countries have partnerships together to respect IP protections filed in one across both. The European Commission has patent-related rules that work across countries in Europe.

What Can You Patent?

A patent is something that denotes you as the creator of an invention. Where a trademark has to do with a brand and can cover a variety of different symbols, phrases, and artistic expressions for your business, a patent protects one specific thing. Patents are not all-encompassing. For this reason, patents only protect inventions. Inventions have to serve a useful purpose to someone. It doesn’t have to be significant, but it does have to be original. Inventions include:

  • Machines: Patentable machines are “concrete mechanical devices (or combination of devices) that fulfill some function and produce some result.”
  • Medicines: When companies create antibiotics, medical devices, treatment procedures, or other substances used in medicine, they can patent them. 
  • Computer programs: There’s a special patent called a software patent specifically meant to protect stand-alone computer software programs that can be integrated into mechanical devices. 
  • Compositions: This is not a written composition, which would need a copyright. Patentable compositions are physical compounds that are composed of two or more different substances to produce a solution, chemical, mixture, or other type of substance.  
  • Processes: If you create a strategy or way of doing something that hasn’t been thought of before, it can be patented for your use alone. An example would be the assembly line used to speed up manufacturing production.

If something you patent uses another patent to function, you need to make sure that you have permission to use it. Regardless, you will not be getting IP protections for the application of another patent unless you own that one as well.

How Long Do Patents Last?

Patents last only 20 years, after which your invention becomes available for public use and consumption. Patents available for public use are considered to be in the public domain

You can file new patents that are evolved versions of your old patent. These will be new separate patents, but if they are improved enough, they will make the old patent obsolete. Many businesses don’t want to be behind the competition and will pay to license out the improved version of your creation. This can be more profitable for both parties rather than waiting for your patent to join the public domain.

What Will Get Your Patent Denied?

There are multiple reasons for a patent to be denied. Some are issues with the subject material of your patent, while others have problems with your filing process. Some of these reasons for patent refusal include:

  • Lack of Novelty: One of the most important prerequisites for a patent (and all IP protections) is that the IP is original. If it’s based on another IP, it has to be made with the permission of the owner of the inspiration.
  • Obviousness: While something can be original or new to the USPTO, that doesn’t mean it will be original or new to people in relevant industries. If someone in an industry that would use your patent could realistically reverse engineer or recreate your patent, it would be considered unpatentable. An example would be replacing a metal spring in a device with a rubber cone. They do the same thing, but their design differences are aesthetic at best. In this instance, the creator of the rubber cone would have to detail other properties that explain the important differences between the two devices.
  • Inadequate Disclosure/Description: When you file for a patent, the USPTO reviewing your file needs to understand what you are patenting. If your description is inconclusive or vague, your patent will be rejected.
  • Erroneous Patent: If the filing of your patent was filled with errors or had one significant error beyond a spelling error, your patent will be rejected. 
  • Subject Matter Ineligibility: When you try to patent something that is not patentable and requires a different type of IP protection, your patent will be denied. 
  • Previous Patent or Publication: You cannot patent something that has already been patented. If your patent is found to be the same or incredibly similar to another patent, even one you own, it will be rejected. If you’re improving upon a patent you own or have the license for, this patent must only be for the changes, not the overall invention itself.

Contact ETB Law to Find Out What You Can Patent For Your Business

If you’re trying to build or expand your business centered around a new invention or evolution of one, you need a patent. Don’t run the risk of someone else filing it under your nose. If that happens, they can file a lawsuit against you and try to force you to pay them for a license or bar you from your invention altogether. While you can prove that you were the original inventor, you may be unable to use the invention while legal proceedings continue.

Instead of putting your IP and business at risk, contact the patent law attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett. We have the experience to ensure you can get a legal patent and hold on to it for as long as possible. Schedule a consultation to learn more.



We provide complete intellectual property representation to business owners, inventors and artists in all matters related to the establishment and protection of domestic and international patents, trademarks and copyrights. Attorneys at our firm also serve as in-house IP counsel for companies whose needs do not call for a full-time internal position.

Akron Office

1914 Akron-Peninsula Road
Akron, OH 44313

Wedgewood Office Park

3841B Attucks Drive
Powell, OH 43065-6082






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