Exclusions and obstacles

To be an invention within the purview of patent law, an invention cannot consist solely of:

  • A discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method
  • An artistic creation
  • A plan, rule or practice for intellectual, gambling or business activities or a computer program
  • A presentation of information
  • A method of surgical or therapeutic treatment or diagnosis to be practised on humans or animals

Software and business method

An idea that consists only of a computer program or a plan, rule or method of doing business is not technical in nature and therefore cannot be patented. On the other hand, inventions of a technical nature which consist in part of a business method, or which can be implemented by a computer program, may be patentable.

Unethical inventions

In biotechnology, for example, it is possible to patent genetically modified products, while human cloning methods are considered unethical. Unethical inventions are not patentable.

Medical methods

Apparatus and products for practising medical methods may be patentable, but the methods themselves (point 5 above) are not patentable. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The existence of a patent must not restrict or prevent doctors from curing and preventing diseases.
    2. Methods may have different effects on different patients. These methods are therefore not reproducible.

Inventions contrary to the laws of nature

It is not possible to show that a perpetual motion machine will work forever. It is therefore not patentable.

Good practice

Patents cannot be obtained for inventions that are contrary to public policy or morality.

Examples of inventions with patentable as well as non-patentable elements:

Suppose you have invented a bicycle generator. Can you get a patent for your invention? Yes, if your bicycle generator is completely new, i.e. not known anywhere in the world.

It must also be significantly different from known generators, and it must generate power every time it is used. What parts of your invention could be patented?


Not patentable

A new generator (the technical solution)

The mathematical formula for how the generator produces power

Use of the generator on a bicycle

A plan for selling the generator

A method of manufacturing the generator