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What is a patent? Part 2

By John Rule.

In order to be patentable an invention must be:

  • novel, the invention must not be already known to the public before the date a patent is applied for;
  • inventive, the invention must not be an obvious modification of what is already known; and
  • capable of industrial application, that is, the invention can be made or used in any kind of industry.


Some ideas cannot be patented; ideas which may be regarded as: 

  • scientific or mathematical discoveries, theories or methods;
  • literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works;
  • schemes, rules or methods for performing a mental act;
  • and methods of medical treatment.

If your invention relates to computer software, we can give you advice on whether your invention may be patentable.

It may be worth considering one or more of the other ways of protecting your invention mentioned below; you could consider protecting different aspects of your product or process using one or more of the following:

  • Registered design
  • Registered trade marks
  • Unregistered design right and copyright
  • Secrecy, private ‘know-how’ and confidentiality agreements.



A common mistake made by people new to the world of patents is to reveal their invention too early. If you reveal your invention in any way (by word of mouth, demonstration, sale, advertisement, public use, article in a journal, magazine or newspaper or disclosure in any other way) before you apply for a patent, you are making your invention public.  This could mean that you lose the possibility of being granted a patent.

If you need to talk to someone before you apply, such as a potential business partner, you should ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement before you talk to them. This means they have to treat what you tell them in confidence.  We can prepare this type of agreement for you.

Any conversation you have with us is confidential, so anything you say to us will not count as disclosing your invention.

Contact us for more information about these different forms of intellectual property.

This news item may contain information of general interest about current legal issues, but does not contain legal advice.