Utility is one of the standards an invention must meet to be eligible for a patent. An invention is said to have utility if it is capable of producing some kind of specific functional benefit. The benefit does not have to be very great or even socially beneficial. As long as the invention achieves some end, it will meet the utility requirement.

What Are the Types of Utility?

There are several kinds of utilities that could be achieved by a patented product:

  • Beneficial Utility: The invention must not be useless or injurious to society and must have be a benefit to the well-being.
  • Operational Utility: The invention must be made in the way that is claimed by the patent applicant or inventor and must be capable of achieving useful results.
  • Specific Utility: There must be a specific thing that the product does that makes it useful and a benefit to the public.
  • Substantial Utility: The invention must be a current, real-world benefit to the invention.

Does My Invention Have to Work Better than Others of its Kind?

An invention does not have to work better than other products on the market. It does not even have to work safely. It just has to work. As long as your invention is capable of doing what it’s supposed to do, it will meet the utility requirement.

The primary requirement for an invention is that the utility of the patented product must be beneficial and useful to society and it must be capable of achieving those results. The utility must be specific to the subject matter claimed and have a defined real world use.

What Are Some Limits on Utility?

Although the utility requirement is fairly modest, there are certain limits its scope:

  • Inventions that do not work or cannot work do not meet the utility requirement because they do not perform any described function.
  • Inventors cannot fabricate a use for a nonfunctional invention to get around the utility requirement. In other words, an inventor cannot evade the utility requirement by claiming that a nonfunctional time machine could be used as a doorstop
  • Inventors have to know what specific use an invention has. Simply suspecting it might be useful does not satisfy the utility requirement. For example, a scientist could discover a process to produce a new steroid but be unsure of the steroid’s use. Even if similar steroids can inhibit tumors in mice, if the scientist has done no testing on his particular steroid, his invention cannot meet the utility requirement.

Do I Need a Patent Attorney?

If you are considering patenting an invention and are concerned about the utility requirement, you should contact a patent lawyer to help you through the patent process. A patent attorney can help you navigate through the tricky waters of patent law.