Three things to determine if your invention is patentable
This guide provides an overview of the threshold for patentability and describes the minimum requirements for an invention to be patentable. This guide is not a substitute for the opinion of a registered patent practitioner. It is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.
Patentable Subject MatterAt the most general level, patents are issued for inventions that are things or ways of doing things, but not for ideas. "Things" include machines, tools, chemicals, and even plants. "Ways of doing things" include familiar features like Amazon's One-Click purchase and Apple's swipe-to-unlock feature. Non-patentable subjects include abstract ideas. If your process can be completed in your mind, it is probably an abstract idea. Other non-patentable subjects are mathematical formulas, laws of nature, and things that exist in nature. The apparent contradiction between plant patents and "things that exist in nature" not being patentable is an interesting topic for another time. In short, if you invented a "thing," your invention may be patentable. But so may the way you make your "thing!"
Novelty: Is your invention new?Novelty is the way patent practitioners say an invention is new. For your invention to be new and pass the threshold for novelty, your invention must be just that: new. However, novelty does not look for whether an identical invention exists. Rather, novelty looks for whether an invention that includes all of the features of your invention exists. These two might seem like the same thing, at first glance, but they are not. One way that an already-existing invention might include all of the features of your invention without being the same is if the already-existing invention has yours plus more.
Obviousness: Can your invention be made by combining existing inventions?For your invention to be patentable, it must be non-obvious. Non-obvious, in the world of patent law, means that your invention cannot be made from a combination of already-existing inventions in the same or similar fields. If your invention is a system for performing a task that includes three components, your invention might be considered obvious, and therefore not patentable, if each of the three components was included in an already-existing invention when your patent application is filed. Even if the components had not previously been combined in the way your invention combines them.
However, the best way to be sure is to hire a patent practitioner to provide you with an opinion.