Utility Patent Applications

A utility patent application is the most costly form of patent applications because it has a very detailed written description.  A utility patent application is directed toward a new and useful product or process, or any new and useful improvement thereof.

Utility patent applications directed toward products include the claims with limitations that define discrete physical structures or materials, although structures may be recited in terms of functional language.  Such claims are referred to as product or apparatus claims.  Product claims are claims that are directed toward machines, manufactures or compositions of matter

Utility patent applications directed toward processes include the claims with limitations that define steps or acts to be performed


A machine is “a concrete thing, consisting of parts, or of certain devices and combination of devices.” Burr v Duryee, 68 US (1 Wall) 531, 570 (1863).

Examples of machines include small appliances (e.g., toasters, blenders, and can openers), large appliances (e.g., washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers), electronics (e.g., general-purpose computers, cell phones, copiers, and printers), power tools (e.g., saws, drill guns, nail guns, compressors), and power sources (e.g., engines, boilers, and furnaces).


A manufacture is “the production of articles for use from raw or prepared materials by giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties or combinations, whether by hand labor or by machinery.” Diamond v Chakrabarty, 447 US 303, 308, 206 USPQ 193, 196-97 (quoting American Fruit Growers, Inc v Brogdex Co, 283 US 1, 11 (1931)).

Examples of manufactures include clothing items and accessories (e.g., shirts, trousers, jackets, shoes, belts, wallets, and hand bags), furniture items (e.g., desks, tables, chairs, and shelves), and household items (e.g., lamps, picture frames, hand tools, and ladders). 

Composition of Matter

A composition of matter is “a composition of two or more substances, whether [it] be the result of chemical union, or of mechanical mixture, or whether . . . gas, fluid, powder, or solid.” Diamond v Chakrabarty, 447 US 303, 308, 206 USPQ 139, 197 (quoting Shell Development Co v Watson, 149 F Supp 279, 280, 113 USPQ 265, 266 (D.D.C. 1957), aff‘d per curiam, 252 F.2d 861, 116 USPQ 428 (DC Cir 1958)).

Examples of compositions of matter include adhesives, polymers, alloys, pharmaceutical drugs, herbal supplements and laboratory-created life forms.


A process requires one or more steps.  However, not all processes are patentable.  In order to be a patentable process, a process must 1) be tied to a particular machine, and/or 2) transform an article to a different state or thing.  This is referred to as the machine-transformation test.

An example of a process tied to a machine involves the use of a computer (e.g., computer-operated process to transform raw, uncured rubber into molded, cured rubber products).  Examples of processes that transform articles to different states or things include the use of high temperature and pressure to transform fats into constituent compounds and the transformation of grain meal into purified flour.

Non-Patentable Subject Matter

Three specific exceptions to patentable subject matter include: 1) laws of nature, 2) physical phenomena, and 3) abstract ideas.

Types of Utility Patent Applications

There are two types of utility patent applications, a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application.  For more information about provisional patent applications, see the Provisional Patent Applications page.  For more information about non-provisional patent applications, see the Non-Provisional Patent Applications page.   

If you have a question about utility patent applications, askme at thedford@askmeip.com.