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Patentable Subject Matter

This lesson covers the kinds of inventions that can be patented. The first section discusses how the Constitution and the federal Patent Act (specifically Section 101) define and limit those categories of innovations, including the open issues in that on-going debate. The second section offers a variety of problems ranging from the straight-forward to the more complex, permitting confirmation of understanding and practice in application.

Although the two sections build on one another, they are sufficiently independent that either can be done as a stand-alone exercise.

A general familiarity with basic patent law policy and doctrine would provide helpful background context, but neither is assumed or essential.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to:

  1. Identify and define the four categories of patentable subject matter.
  2. Explain the "laws of nature" exception.
  3. Explain the "natural phenomena" exception.
  4. Explain the "abstract ideas" exception.
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