Posts Tagged 35 usc 101
Patentable subject matter includes “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” That’s the patent law way of saying essentially anything new under the sun made by the hand of man is potentially patentable! There are, of course limits to what can be patented. Laws of nature (E=mc2), physical phenomena (ice is less dense than liquid water), and abstract ideas (let’s go to Venus on a spaceship!) are not patentable. Applications of these patent ineligible areas may receive a patent. For example, patented technologies used in GPS satellites would not operate without utilizing Special and General Relativity.
Orbits may be, at a minimum, part of a process for accomplishing a task. Patentable subject matter includes processes! So new orbits/orbital maneuvers can be patent-eligible if used for some useful purpose. It is important to keep in mind however that the orbits themselves aren’t patented, technological solutions for providing telecommunications which utilize equipment in those orbits are patent eligible.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from Zeus’ lightning, hid it in a hollow stalk, and gave that fire to humanity. His generosity toward man led to personal regret later. Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock where he died a painful death only to be resurrected the next day to endure more mortal agonies. Let’s take another look at the Prometheus story from a modern, patent perspective. Ignoring, for the moment, the wrath of a vengeful king of the gods, could Prometheus have profited from introducing humanity to fire by securing a patent on everyone’s favorite chemical reaction: combustion? Alas, no. Poor Prometheus would have found this path a difficult one as well. Where an invention or discovery is new, useful, and non-obvious the patent system will generally grant patent protection to “anything under the sun that is made by man.” And therein lies the rub for poor, would-be fire patentee Prometheus. Patents will not be granted on laws of nature, physical phenomena, or abstract ideas but applications of such principles are fair game!