Patentability refers to the legal requirements an invention must meet in order to be eligible for a patent. The main criteria for patentability are: novelty, non-obviousness (inventive step), and utility (industrial applicability).


Novelty is the requirement that the invention is new and has not been previously disclosed to the public. In other words, the invention should not have been described in any prior art (previous publications, patents, public presentations, etc.) before the filing date or priority date of the patent application.

Example 1:

A new type of solar panel that uses an innovative material with higher energy conversion efficiency than existing materials can be considered novel if there is no prior art disclosing this specific material or its use in solar panels.

Example 2:

A new drug that effectively treats a specific disease using a previously unknown chemical compound or a new method of synthesis can be considered novel if it has not been previously disclosed in any publication, patent, or presentation.

Non-obviousness (Inventive Step)

Non-obviousness or inventive step is the requirement that the invention is not obvious to a person skilled in the art at the time of the invention. This means that the invention should not be easily deducible or predictable based on the existing knowledge in the field.

Example 1:

A new method of producing graphene that significantly reduces production time and cost, using a unique combination of chemicals and processes, could be considered non-obvious if it's not an obvious solution to the existing methods known by experts in the field.

Example 2:

A new type of battery with substantially longer life and faster charging capabilities, made by utilizing a previously unknown electrochemical process, can be considered non-obvious if such a process is not an evident solution to experts in the field of battery technology.

Utility (Industrial Applicability)

Utility, also known as industrial applicability, is the requirement that the invention must have a practical use or be capable of being used in an industry. The invention should be functional and provide a specific benefit or solution to a problem.

Example 1:

A new machine that automates the process of sorting and packaging products in a warehouse can be considered to have utility because it serves a practical purpose and can be employed in an industrial setting to improve efficiency.

Example 2:

A new method for recycling electronic waste that effectively separates valuable metals from other components, allowing for better resource recovery and reduced environmental impact, can be considered to have utility because it addresses a real-world problem and can be applied in the recycling industry.

Example 3:

A new biodegradable material that can replace single-use plastics in food packaging, and decomposes in a significantly shorter time compared to traditional plastics, can be considered to have utility because it addresses an environmental issue and can be used in the packaging industry.

It is important to note that in addition to these three main criteria, some countries may have specific requirements or exclusions for certain types of inventions. For example, some jurisdictions do not allow patents for abstract ideas, laws of nature, natural phenomena, or inventions that are considered to be against public policy or morality.

In conclusion, for an invention to be eligible for a patent, it must meet the criteria of novelty, non-obviousness (inventive step), and utility (industrial applicability). Each of these criteria plays a critical role in ensuring that the invention is indeed new, inventive, and useful for it to be granted a patent.


[1] World Intellectual Property Organization - Patents

[2] USPTO - Patent Basics

[3] EPO Guidelines for Examination - Inventive Step