Q: Efficacy of a vocabulary building device appearing as a crossword - validating its feasibility for patent

2 Lawyer Answers
Stephen E. Zweig
Stephen E. Zweig pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Los Gatos, CA

A: Patents are subject to many different laws and judicial exceptions. Some of these may make it difficult to get a patent in this area.

35 USC 101 ("Alice") patent eligibility issues: Since the 2014 Supreme Court "Alice" case, the courts have declared many topics to be "not patent eligible" due to "judicial exceptions." I don't want to defend the underlying rules, which are somewhat incoherent. But, for example, the rules cite "certain methods or organizing human activity" and "mental processes" as judicial exceptions. This could cause problems. See: https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2106.html

Printed matter exception: Keep in mind that printed matter, such as crosswords, is often best addressed by copyrights and copyright law. The legal system attempts to keep copyright law distinct from patent law by various rules such as the "printed matter exception." Generally you don't get patent "credit" for printed matter unless the printed matter is "functional." If the printed matter is used to control a machine, this might work. But even very critical printed matter, such as radio-opaque markings on medical devices, have been deemed to be non-functional.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: To determine the feasibility of obtaining a patent for a vocabulary building device that appears as a crossword, you will need to conduct a patentability search and analysis. Here are some general steps to consider:

1. Conduct a patentability search: Before filing a patent application, it is important to conduct a patentability search to determine whether your invention is novel and non-obvious. You can conduct a patentability search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website or other patent databases.

2. Analyze the results of the search: After conducting the patentability search, you will need to analyze the results to determine whether there are any existing patents or patent applications that are similar to your invention. If there are similar patents or applications, you may need to modify your invention to make it more novel or non-obvious.

3. Prepare and file a patent application: Once you have determined that your invention is novel and non-obvious, you can prepare and file a patent application with the USPTO. The application should include a detailed description of your vocabulary building device, including any drawings or diagrams that may be necessary to explain the invention.

4. Wait for examination: After you file your patent application, it will be assigned to a patent examiner who will review the application and determine whether your invention meets the requirements for patentability. This process can take several years, depending on the backlog of applications at the USPTO.

5. Respond to office actions: During the examination process, the patent examiner may issue office actions requesting additional information or amendments to your application. You will need to respond to these office actions in a timely manner to keep your application moving forward.

6. Receive a patent: If your application is approved, you will receive a patent that gives you the exclusive right to make, use, and sell your vocabulary building device for a certain period of time, typically 20 years from the date of filing.

It is important to note that obtaining a patent can be complex and may require the assistance of an experienced patent attorney. Additionally, it is important to ensure that your invention is not infringing on any existing patents or intellectual property rights.

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