In the United States, inventors are often considered to be the people, or more specifically persons, who directly contribute to a patent’s claims. In other patent law frameworks, including in the European Patent Convention, and its associated case law, no specific, accurate definition of what an “inventor” is given. One reason for this is that the term “inventor” is broad and includes many different people and ideas. Another reason is that inventors are often themselves difficult individuals to hire, which makes it difficult to hire them as professionals. This article describes who an “inventor” is in relation to their own patenting activity.
In order to obtain a US patent, inventors must first demonstrate to the US examiner that their invention is new and not obvious in view of what others have previously done. For example, if two experts invented the same machine, then they are both obvious and so should each receive a US patent. However, if they each invented two different machines, then one of those should not be granted a US patent because it was clearly obvious from what was done that the first machine was indeed innovated. Generally speaking, however, inventors are only considered to be “clearly innovative” if their invention is new and not obvious from what others have done previously. Therefore, if two experts each made a machine with the same general design, but one of them was more careful in how he designed it, then they are clearly less inventive than the first one.
One way to think about this is that in order for an invention to be considered innovative, it needs to function in some way that has never been done before. This can be considered to be a relatively vague definition, since it is difficult to assess how many things already exist, and what they would do if invented. Thus, in theory, an invented light bulb could effectively replace all of the lamps on the market, since it simply works. One problem is, in order for the light bulb to function this way, it must function without any outside energy. So, if inventors continue to focus on this requirement, their inventions become more likely to be ruled out by the US Patent Office.
Some inventors may seek to define their invention in this way, in order to ensure that it becomes eligible for patenting. For example, if an electric light bulb is created that also generates heat, then the invention is claimed to generate heat, rather than merely lighting. However, there are cases when this is not necessarily the case, especially with light bulbs that simply generate light. An example of this would be an electric light bulb that also converts sunlight into electricity, if it is designed to efficiently utilize natural sunlight.
When dealing with US patent laws, it is important to understand that inventors often try to save a portion of the financial rewards they receive for their creation by submitting too many claims. Unfortunately, it is not always easy enough to say but not easy enough to do. Some inventors simply claim too much, and this leads to lawsuits and legal issues. The result is that other inventors start to look down upon these overly aggressive inventors, and this can greatly impact the future of the innovators’ career. This is why it is important to be as aggressive and detailed as possible in your patent application.
Many inventors continue to be frustrated and disappointed with the USPTO. For every good invention there is a bad one, and unfortunately this is the way that things work in the patent system. Sometimes it takes a new, innovative idea to get a US Patent approved. Other times it takes a very creative inventor with a great idea to get a US Patent approved.