Q: What types of inventions have to be patented
A: Nothing HAS to be patented. But any "new, useful, and nonobvious" machine, article of manufacture, process, composition of matter, or improvement on those things may be eligible for a "utility patent." While a utility patent protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), "design patents" protect the way articles look (35 U.S.C. 171). Still further, "plant patents" protect new varieties of plants.
Kevin E. Flynn agrees with this answer
Agree that there is not a legal mandate to patent any invention (putting aside the requirements of government grant recipients to timely report inventions so that the government can elect to patent the invention if the grantee does not).
A patent is like a fence around an orchard. It helps ensure that a fruitful orchard does not become less profitable as others are harvesting some of the fruit. (Note that if you never get your orchard to bear fruit, the patent may be of little value).
Under the right circumstances a patent with broad claims can help ensure that knock-off products do not enter the market and decrease your market share and margin.
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
Kevin E Flynn
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