An Inventors Guide To Patents And The Patent Process

An Inventors Guide To Patents And The Patent Process

Patent Filing Guide

What Can You Patent? 

It helps to know what exactly you can patent under US law so that your invention can be properly protected. There are limitations to what patents can protect for the simple reason that patenting common items, ideas, or thoughts would not be enforceable. This is why there are certain items that can be patented while other areas cannot. 

What Can Be Patented?

If you look at the statue that was written for the law, the patent applies to anyone who discovers or invents a useful machine, manufacture, composition of matter, process, or any useful improvement of such. There are additional considerations as well of which there are additional laws and statutes that apply. One area that does cause some confusion is the use of the word “process” which has different meanings depending on how it is used. 

In applying for a patent, “process” is defined as being a method or act that is primarily associated with technical or industrial processes. Another point of contention is “composition of matter” which applies to non-living chemical compositions, ingredients, and the like. For example, if you create a new mixture of ingredients that creates a new composition of matter, you may apply for a patent to provide protection for your process. 

There are exceptions to the composition of matter, most notably what is included in the 1954 Atomic Energy Act which excludes patents for any invention that is used or utilized for the sole purpose of atomic or nuclear material found in an atomic weapon or bomb. This is one special exception to the general patenting process in the United States.

The Boundaries of Useful 

Another area of contention with the patent process applies to the term “useful”. How that term is interpreted will determine whether your invention qualifies for a patent. In most cases, useful means that it offers some tangible benefit or can be operated which applies a benefit to a large group of people. For example, if you create a machine that does not operate or perform in a manner that fits its intended purpose, then it would not be useful in that regard and a patent application would be rejected. 

The term useful is somewhat tricky, but essentially it must provide a beneficial service or performance as intended by the inventor. When applying for a patent explaining how the invention is useful needs to be spelled out carefully.

What Cannot Be Patented

Over the year, the courts have made rulings over the interpretations of the statutes within the laws governing patents. These rulings have placed limits on what can be patented by using the standards of physical phenomenon, abstract ideas, and laws of nature to act as a guidepost for future patent cases. 

This means that there are certain things that simply cannot be patented, either because it does not meet the minimum criteria, or it stretches beyond what can be legally patented. For example, you cannot patent an idea. It must be something which is more than what you think, it must be a design in which its usefulness can be shown. This prevents the patenting of inventions that are not possible today because the materials or technology does not exist. 

However, if it can be demonstrated that potential product, machine, or device does have a useful purpose, then it may be patented assuming it falls under the proper criteria. This allows inventors who have come up with invention ideas, but lack the financing to create full-scale models to patent their inventions. This assumes that the usefulness of their invention can be properly demonstrated that fits the criteria for a patent. 


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At-Will Employees and Wrongful Termination

Did you know that there are reasons you cannot be fired?

 Unfortunately for most of us, having a job is a duty that we face every week. And as employees, we know that getting fired from your job is not ideal for future employment options. However, certain reasons for getting fired are not valid in the eyes of the law and you may have the option for legal recourse.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination can happen for a number of different reasons. According to the San Francisco wrongful termination lawyers at Rukin Hyland, if your employer fired you for one of the following reasons, you might be able to file a lawsuit:

1. Retaliation for taking allowed vacation, sick time, breaks, pregnancy leave, or filing a workers’ compensation claim

2. Retaliation for reporting illegal activity or some type of safety or ethical violation

3. Breach of an employment contract, either written or spoken

4. Discrimination for beliefs, gender, race, or age

There may also be instances where a job is made so miserable and intolerable by an employer that the employee has no choice but to quit. This is called constructive discharge and is treated the exact same way as a wrongful termination claim so employers cannot force you out of a position without ever actually firing you.

At-Will Employment

Although the above criteria may seem straightforward, it can become a little less clear if the employee is an at-will employee. Most employees in the United States are at-will, meaning that your employment can be terminated without warning or cause. Just as an employee can give their two weeks’ notice without providing a reason, so too can employers fire their employees without a concrete reason. Most of us signed some form of contract during our first week of work stating exactly this point and even if you chose not to sign the contract, most courts will still decide in your employer’s favor.

Therefore, although the idea of wrongful termination and at-will employment exist side by side, they seem to directly conflict with each other. One says that there are reasons that you cannot be terminated, while the other says you can be terminated at any time. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the ability to prove the reason you were fired with concrete evidence. An employer may very well fire you because of your gender, religious beliefs, or in retaliation for taking too many sick days, but if there is no evidence to support that claim, then your case will not hold up in court. In fact, many employers are smart and will not give you a reason for your firing because if your case does go to court, they do not have to worry about contradicting anything that they may have said. 

Because of this, it is imperative to document and collect as much evidence as possible. Did your firing come after a specific or controversial event? Was your performance up to standard and you were still fired? These are all great questions to ask yourself if you believe you were unlawfully terminated. If you have proper evidence and can defend your claim, speak with an attorney and see if they can validate the merits of your case.

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Before You Get A Pet In College, Make Sure You Have A Home To Give Them

It's not fair to get a pet if you can't give them a good home.

Since starting college, I've seen countless students and peers with pets — everything from dogs to cats to reptiles to pigs. Some of them have been service or support animals, others were just pets! Luckily, all the ones I've seen have been well-loved and well taken care of. However, there have been some stories I've heard of people — especially college students — getting pets on a whim and not being able to properly take care of them or offer them a stable home. In these cases, the pets are not well-taken care of and are passed from person to person without any stability or given to a shelter.

This is such a sad reality for thousands (if not more) animals and pets and something that has made me hesitate to get a pet myself while I'm in college. As much as I want a dog or cat right now, I know I'm in a fairly unstable situation being in college. I've moved to different apartments and houses every year, I often spend the majority of the day away from my apartment and on campus, and I don't have a lot of spare time to give to a dog or a cat.

And most of my funds are going toward college and books — there's not a lot of extra money to spend on necessary things for pets such as vet bills, food, toys, etc. As much as I know I'd love and care for a pet right now, I also know it wouldn't be fair to them to welcome them into a home that is constantly moving and often empty for hours at a time. When I get a pet, I'd like to be confident that I would have the time and the life stability to give them the best possible life they could have.

I'm not saying that everyone who has a pet in college isn't being responsible or are not providing a great home for their pets — many people are! I'm only saying that it's important to take into consideration all of the responsibilities that come with owning a pet before actually getting a pet. As great as it would be for you to get a dog or a cat, you've got to remember that this will be a huge change for not only you but for the animal you welcome into your life.

You want to give them the best possible life you can, which means taking care of them, giving them a safe and happy home, providing them with the supplies they'll need, and spending time with them.

So, before you get a pet in college (or any time), make sure you're providing them with a good and stable home.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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