How Difficult is it to Get a Patent?

J.D. Harriman is a Intellectual Property Attorney for DLA Piper ( In this video he discusses the difficulties in getting a patent.

  1. Although it is time consuming, the ability to obtain a patent is achievable.
  2. The patent must be useful, novel, and non-obvious for the USPTO to grant the patent.
  3. Useful means it must be in one of the accepted categories (machine, process, system).
  4. New means it must not have been done before by others.
  5. Non-obvious means you have made a meaningful change (not merely size, color, material change).

A lot of people ask me, how hard is it to get a patent? And the answer is it’s time consuming, but very achievable.

The standard in the Patent Office for getting a patent in the US, the bar is something that can be done. There are certain requirements though. Your invention and the patent application must be for invention that is useful, novel and non-obvious. If it doesn’t meet those categories, the Patent Office will not grant the patent.

Useful means it’s in one of the accepted categories. For example, a machine, a process or a system and not in an excluded category such as an algorithm or a recipe, something like that.

Novel means it’s new. People haven’t done it before. When people ask me, should I file a patent application for my invention, I often ask them, well, did this solve a problem you had and were you unable to find anything to help you solve the problem? If they say, no, I had to come up with my own solution, that’s typically evidence of novelty.

Now, non-obvious is something different. Sometimes people just change an idea slightly. They might change the material to some things made out of, they may just change the size of it or they may change the color. Typically, those things alone won’t make a new invention. They might, but typically, they don’t.

So you have to look at substantial change to what has been done before. So if you’re thinking about a patent application, make sure it’s something that’s useful, new and non-obvious.