Q: I want to patent a product. Do I have to make sure every single part of the product is not yet patented?

Or can I focus my patent research for my product as ONE object only (with its function)? For example, a water bottle with temperature sensor. Do I have to make sure that there is no patented temperature sensor for any other usage and not only for related to my product? I am a bit confused. Please assist ne further, thank you.

2 Lawyer Answers
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: This is a common question.

No, you do not have to make sure that every single part of the product is not yet patented. Almost all patented products have parts that are already known. So, in your example, for a water bottle with a temperature sensor, it is OK to take a commercially available temperature sensor.

The problem is that your invention must be new (novel) and not obvious. This means that if you buy a water bottle, and just slap an aquarium temperature strip onto a bottle, then you won’t be able to get a patent. Even if nobody has ever put a temperature strip onto a water bottle, it is obvious that putting a temperature strip on a water bottle would simply do nothing more than just to provide the user with the temperature of the water. The same thing with using a thermochromic paint on the bottle, or putting a temperature sensor hooked up to the internet, etc.

But, if you were to invent a new water bottle and use an existing temperature sensor, then you’d be able to get a patent on the water bottle, as well as on the combination of a water bottle with the temperature sensor.

Good luck!

Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Licensed in New York

A: Your questions lead to the issue of patentability (whether your new idea can get a patent) and freedom-to-operate (whether existing patents that are still in force apply to your product).

My slide set at http://bit.ly/Patent_Searching goes through this distinction.

If you found this answer helpful, you may want to look at my answers to other questions about patent law are available at the bottom of my profile page at https://lawyers.justia.com/lawyer/kevin-e-flynn-880338

Kevin E Flynn

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