A patent grant can only be issued if a timely application is filed that adequately describes a novel, useful, and unobvious invention of proper subject matter. To be timely, an application must be filed within one year of certain acts (by the inventor or others) which place the invention in the hands of the public i.e., patented or published anywhere in the world, on sale or in public use in this country. This one-year grace period, however, is not available in most foreign countries. A U.S. inventor who wants to obtain corresponding foreign patents must first file an application in the U.S. before any divulgation, whether in written or oral form, of the invention to the public. In addition, if a United States patent application is filed, it may be necessary to file foreign applications within one year of the U.S. filing date. Such is the case if the inventor needs the foreign application to be given the same filing date as the U.S. application.
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The invention must be novel i.e., not invented first by another or identically known or used by others in this country or patented or published anywhere in the world before the actual invention date. Additionally, the invention must be useful i.e., serve some disclosed or generally known purpose. Furthermore, the invention must be unobvious i.e., the differences between the invention and the prior public knowledge in its technical field must be such that a person having ordinary skill in this field would not have found the invention obvious at the time it was made.
The proper subject matter of a patent is…
any product, process, apparatus or composition, including living matter such as genetically engineered bacteria or plants (Utility Patent). Special provisions also permit patents directed to certain distinct and new varieties of plants (Plant Patent) and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture (Design Patent).