Asked in Patents (Intellectual Property)

Q: Can something that is not man made i.e. occurs naturally with no human intervention, have a patent?

1 Lawyer Answer
Bernard Samuel Klosowski
Bernard Samuel Klosowski
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Greenville, SC

A: No, standing alone "naturally occurring phenomena" are not patent eligible.

35 USC 101 dictates that Processes, Machines, Articles of Manufacture, or Compositions of Matter are eligible for patenting (ultimately, the subject matter also has to be new, useful, and not obvious to be patentable).

Courts have interpreted the "101" statute to exclude "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas." So, "naturally occurring phenomena" - along with scientific principles, mathematical algorithms, etc. - are not patent eligible. Tangentially, discovering a way to use a naturally occurring "thing" in a new (perhaps "unconventional" way) to solve a problem, or adding something to the natural thing to create something new, etc. might be patentable. But of course, that would involve human intervention as the question suggests.

As an aside, what about things "invented" by Artificial Intelligence? I discuss that here: and here:

Liliana Di Nola-Baron agrees with this answer

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