Protecting any invention can be a wise decision for any business owner or inventor. An invention doesn’t need to be a new product you plan to sell in order for it to be patentable. In fact, even if you only use the product yourself or inside your business, it can be valuable and worthy of legal protection.
For instance, recently Apple secured a patent for a round pizza box available only in their campus cafeteria. Even though the box is not the type of product traditionally invented by Apple or available to the public, it fulfills the four basic requirements of a patent, which we examine below.
Patentable subject matter
Products, processes, machines, designs and plants are all eligible for patents. The pizza box fits this criterion because of its shape and the holes drilled into the box to allow steam to escape rather than be trapped inside making crusts soggy.
An invention needs to be useful to be patented. It must also work as it is supposed to. In this case, the shape is useful and the holes are evidently effective at improving the quality of the crust.
A product must be new, or novel, to be eligible for patent protection. If the invention is already in use, described in a publication or already patented, it is not eligible. Even though the pizza box itself is not a new invention, Apple’s round shape and drilled holes are improvements, which can be patented.
An invention must be sufficiently different from other products to be patented, and those differences must not be obvious to people with “ordinary skills” in the relevant area. A round box with ventilation holes is considered an inventive leap, versus an obvious next step.
Having legal help when applying for a patent
No matter what type of invention you or an employee creates, it can be crucial that you protect ownership of it. With legal guidance and support, you can apply for a patent or other means of protecting intellectual property and enforce the rights you have over the creation.