<p><b>Question: </b>What can be patented?</p><p><b>Answer: </b><a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/utility-patent-defined-1991527" data-inlink="H1LCKryI1MyENsZ7T-sGVA&#61;&#61;" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="1">Utility patents</a> protect inventions that are a novel, nonobvious, and useful:</p><ul><li>Process</li><li>Machine</li><li>Article of manufacture</li><li>Composition of matter</li><li>Or an improvement of any of the above items. Most patents are for incremental improvements in known technology; the innovation is evolution rather than revolution.</li></ul>Design patents are for the new ornamental design of an article of manufacture. One example is the look of an athletic shoe. All Star Wars characters were protected by design patents.<p><a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-a-plant-patent-1991518" data-inlink="8a-0U2RpuSqxkuXZLD8JWA&#61;&#61;" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="2">Plant patents</a> provide patent protection for asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant.</p><h3>Meaning of Novel, Nonobvious, and Useful</h3><ul><li>New and Novel: For a United States patent the invention must never have been made public in any way, anywhere in the world, a year before the date on which an application for a patent is filed. In other countries, you have no one year grace period and require absolute novelty.</li><li>Original and Nonobvious: An invention involves an inventive step if, when compared with what is already known, it would not be obvious to someone with a good knowledge and experience of the subject, for example, if you just make cosmetic changes that is obvious.</li><li>Useful: This means that the invention must take the practical form of an apparatus or device, it has to do something.</li></ul>See also - What Cannot Be Patented?