Remember back to our introductory road map. We said that the restaurant’s narrative was copyrighted, that the emblem or logo on the menu was trademarked, and we also said that the plastic casing was probably patented. Today, we begin our discussion about patents.
In patent law, there are four major categories of patentable subject matter (process, machine, manufacture, and composition of matter) all of which are classified as either processes or products.
Process means, “process, art or method, and includes a new use of a known process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or material." For example, the process could be a method for making something, a method for using something, or a method for doing something.
The product category is broken down into machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. A machine is a “device by means of which energy can be used, or a useful operation can be performed." Manufacture is “the production of articles for use from raw or prepared materials by giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties." Composition of matter includes, “all compositions of two or more substances and…all composite articles, whether the result of chemical union, or of mechanical mixture, and no matter whether they be gases, fluids, powders or solids."
Therefore, we can make several educated guesses as to why the plastic cover of the menu was patented. The plastic surely meets the composition of matter definition, and also probably meets the manufacture requirements as well. It is also possible that the plastic meets the process requirement as there is almost certainly a method for making that plastic.
Now that we have a general idea of what types of inventions are patentable, the next question is how one obtains patent protection. This will be the topic of my next post.