It sounds like a made up word, but patentability is actually quite serious business. Anyone with a bright idea for a gadget or an improvement on an existing product will need to establish patentability before they can get exclusive rights to the invention, legally called a patent.

Patentability refers to the conditions set forth under patent law that must be met before an invention may be given a patent. Applying for a patent is expensive, so it is just practical to ensure that an invention meets patentability conditions before a formal application is made. The conditions for patentability are:

  • Non-obvious
  • Novel
  • Useful
  • Subject matter is eligible for patent protection

They sound simple, but meeting these conditions requires a complex understanding of international as well as national patent laws. While a patentability search can certainly be initiated by an amateur, it is generally a waste of time as there are many legal and practical matters to take into consideration. Even though the database is available online, it is an exhausting and confusing process not much better than a hard-copy search in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., where only professional searchers have much luck.

Depending on an inventor’s requirements, the costs of a professional patentability search can be upwards of $400, but it is money well-spent as a professional patentability searcher, usually a patent lawyer, will not only help establish patentability, but may also draft a more effective patent application to improve chances of being approved. And as patents may be challenged in litigation, it helps that a patentability search was conducted by legal professionals as they will be able to provide legal grounds for establishing patentability in the first place. As pointed out in the website of Gagnon, Peacock & Vereeke, P.C. in Fort Worth, small business owners and entrepreneurs have to make sure they have their bases covered legally if they don’t want to get involved in much more expensive litigation later on.

If you have a great idea with a potential to make you a lot of money, you really should not try to do the legal stuff on your own. In fact, before making any further investment in your invention, you should do a patentability search to see if it is something that you own intellectual property rights to.