Patenting inventions

I was wondering if when an inventor took out a patent on an invention, and provided the blueprints, designs etc. and his patent is valid, does this mean the invention works ? Do they test it first before the invention is patented ?
Or could I take out a patent on a pill that turns you into a dinosaur ?

Patents are not tested.

OTOH, your patent is required to provide all the information needed to reproduce your invention. So, if someone else came up with a pill that turns you into a dinosaur that actually worked, your patent would be worthless (assuming it didn’t work) as it didn’t contain anything of value that relates to the working invention. So no valid prior art. The idea (ie - dinosaur pill) isn’t an invention - it is the actual thing that works that is.

There are some stupendously stupid things (and people) that get granted patents. However it costs real money to both take out, and to maintain a patent, so it is an expensive form of vanity.

From the few patents with which my name is associated (general field of medicine and software), I get the sense from talking to the attorneys that in the US at least, you have some period of time to actually create something related to the patent. If you don’t, you may lose the exclusivity the patent grants you.

But me 'n the law do not typically understand one another very well.

I believe there are also other reasons for applying for patents. For example, if you apply for a patent but don’t pursue a product, it’s more difficult for the next guy over to swipe the idea and create a proprietary item because your patent has already made it non-proprietary (unless you enforce your patent). So let’s say I figure out a way we might one-click an order. I patent the idea, but don’t do anything with it, nor enforce my patent. Now Amazon can’t own the one-click…I’ve essentially made it public domain.

In the US and some other countries you have one year from publishing the patentable IP until you file a patent before you lose the right to patenting it. This grace period does not apply in Europe. “Publishing” includes offering something embodying the patented IP for sale.

A lapsed patent means you have lost forever the right to the patented IP, and indeed since the idea has a fully documented paper trail of prior art, no-one can (or at least should not be able to) successfully apply for a patent on it. It is also possible to file patentable ideas in databases that are explicitly maintained to hold publicly available inventions. The idea here is that these databases are well known to all patent attorneys, and as a matter of course, as part of the prior art searches they will do, they will search these databases. Thus filing an idea there makes for unassailable evidence of prior art, and will usually stop a patent application in its tracks.

There is a requirement for “utility” in the various patent acts around the world, which means that the patented subject matter must do something useful, that is, it does have to “work”. The problem is, the patent offices don’t have labs that can test the claimed inventions, so they rely on the submissions of the applicants (and sometimes third parties) to decide if the claimed invention works.

For most things, this isn’t a problem, because the inventors are generally honest, but in the case of crackpots and fraudsters, it can be a major issue. There are some things (like perpetual motion devices) which are automatically assumed to lack utility, but for other, less obvious fake inventions, refusing the patent for lack of utility is much harder. There has to be either actual evidence of lack of utility (like third party reports of tests on the subject matter), or a clearly articulable line of reasoning that demonstrates that the claimed subject matter would violate a widely-recognized law of nature. Making such an argument is much harder, though, which is how most bad patents get issued.

As for your Dino Pill idea, I imagine it would fall under violating widely known physical laws.

Unless, that is, you can demonstrate that the Dino Pill actually works, at which point you could appeal to the Courts, and get your patent issued that way. That’s the thing about patents: by their very nature, every once in a while, you expect to see something new that upsets all the old rules. So we can’t just make blanket statements about what is and is not allowed :smiley:

I’m not a patent attorney, but I doubt this. If this were true there would be no problem with patent trolls, who have no intention of implementing an invention but sue anyone they find violating the patent. No one has ever followed up on my patents (done at work so cash positive for me) to see if they are being used. When I’ve been asked to look at patents the attorneys wanted to know about prior art, not implementation. And it would be unenforceable - many if not most inventions are in processes or software, where it is impossible for an outsider to tell if they are being used.

Before online databases IBM used to periodically publish a book of disclosures which we got in the Bell Labs library. My impression was that this consisted of useful ideas which they did not want to patent but which they did want to establish as prior art.

This may be relevant:

Just for the record, the Patent Office stopped requiring working models in 1880. So it’s been a while.

Isn’t it the case that a patent application describs the process 9or provides blueprints). So theoretically, from the patent documents, anyone sufficiently technical can reproduce the same device.

You aren’t patenting the idea, you are patenting the application. You just make the description sufficiently broad that it prevents bypassing - “I made my paperweight with a round brick not a square one, so I’m not violating your patent”. The patent is for the key piece(s) that make your device do what nobody has thought of before.

There is no requirement for testing a patent. Basically, the requirement is that the inventor describe how to make the invention in a way such that it can be recreated by someone reasonably knowledgeable in the field. I am relatively new to the patent field, so the following is an educated guess, but patents can be re-examined after issuance so if an invention that can’t be recreated was granted a patent, it could be re-examined later and found to be invalid.

Again, only if you can describe the pill in enough detail that someone else could make a pill that turns you into a dinosaur, based on your invention description. :smiley:


Thanks Francis,

So its not tested and costs money so it would either want to work, or want to sell to suckers who believe since its patented, it works. Then if someone else reproduces this and steps in on my business, I would need to prove my patent worked to take legal action or go any further.

In short the patent does not mean it works -

Thanks Horatius,

Not sure why I used that example, I just meant any wild statement I could think of. I see patents on things that seem pretty out there to me and wondered how it was done.

That would be the IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin. I cited that a few times early in career, but not so much lately. And its purpose was exactly what you thought.

Exactly right. Due to the statutory requirement for utility, there’s a public perception that patented inventions actually work, but due to the realities of the patent prosecution process, that’s unfortunately not actually guaranteed.

And some fraudsters do exploit this weakness in exactly this way, alas.

There are two key steps:

[li]Don’t be quite so “Out There” :D[/li][li]Do just enough Bad Science to “prove it works” (anecdotal evidence is your friend!)[/li][/ol]