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Let's say I get a patent issued for a process/formulation that cures a disease or treats damaged hair.

Can someone else come along and invent something that cures the same disease or repairs hair, but they found a totally different chemical, process, and formulation?

Maybe a better way of asking is: can you patent the result or function of an invention?

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    "We regret to inform you that your teleporter patent application has been rejected, because it infringes upon the wheeled cart." Apr 7, 2023 at 14:32
  • invent a better mousetrap ~
    – Mike M
    Apr 9, 2023 at 2:56

4 Answers 4

36

Yes - patents are not for results but for devices and processes that can achieve the result.

An airplane and a helicopter can have similar results; more than one medication helps to reduce blood sugar levels.

32

Yes, certainly.

For example, according to the Smithsonian Institution, over four thousand patents have been granted for mousetraps, and another 40 or so are successfully patented every year.

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    That's a whole lot of beaten paths to doors... Apr 7, 2023 at 13:55
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    @DarrelHoffman A new patent doesn't necessarily mean that they made a better mousetrap. Apr 7, 2023 at 14:02
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    @MichaelRichardson Of course, "better" is a relative term. A mousetrap that doesn't catch mice as well, but is cheaper to manufacturer, can be better for business.
    – Barmar
    Apr 7, 2023 at 14:30
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    @Barmar No doubt funded by "big mouse", AKA Disney. Apr 7, 2023 at 17:37
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    Alternatively, the new mouse trap is better because it does something that the other mouse trap does not. For example, there are mouse traps that are made for people who do not want to kill mice, but don't want them in their house. They will trap the mouse, but not kill it, so the user can take the mouse out to a field and let it go into the wild.
    – hszmv
    Apr 10, 2023 at 13:04
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If both inventions work in different ways, but achieve the same thing, they can both be patented. Take a petrol engine, diesel engine, and a Wankel engine.

If your inventions work in the same way, one gets the patent, one gets nothing. Tough luck.

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    The only way I know of where two patents get granted for the same invention is if both applications are filed on the same day. At least in germany, days are treated as indivisible units, so if one application gets filed at 00:00:01 and the other at 23:59:59, they are both considered to be filed at the same time. And since Germany is "first-to-file", not "first-to-invent", that means neither of the two applications was filed "first", so they can both be granted. Not sure if this has ever happened, though. Apr 7, 2023 at 8:02
  • @JörgWMittag Is it possible to file in the middle of the night? I would guess that if you send in your application after hours, it won't be filed until the clerk comes in the next morning. Apr 7, 2023 at 19:43
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    @CrisLuengo: I've never personally seen it, but at least in the past, the DPMA in Munich apparently had multiple postboxes that opened and closed at midnight. (Either automatically or by a nightwatchman.) Also, I assume they have an agreement with the postal service. And lastly, it has been possible for a while to file paperwork digitally using a specific software application (but not by standard email). The options are: in person, fax (yes, still), post, or digital. Fax and digital trivially can be timestamped, and post can be solved by agreement with the postal service. Apr 7, 2023 at 22:13
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    Here's a photo of the 7 mailboxes: f1online.de/de/bild-details/7191360.html. Looks like they have agreements with universities, , here are similar 7 mailboxes at the university of Aachen: dpma.de/dpma/wir_ueber_uns/kooperation/… and Chemnitz: tu-chemnitz.de/tu/pressestelle/aktuell/1714. This one is somewhere in Stuttgart: alamy.de/… Apr 7, 2023 at 22:23
  • @JörgWMittag Thanks! That is really interesting, I'd never seen those before. I think it speaks to German culture -- it's certainly not something we'd do in the Netherlands. :) Apr 7, 2023 at 22:48
3

I don't know anything about other fields, but drugs can do extremely similar things by extremely similar means and still all get patented.

For example, there were a lot of patented angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (drugs with generic names ending in -pril). There were so many that doctors made jokes about 'another-pril'.

These drugs all

  • prevent heart disease and stroke
  • by lowering blood pressure
  • by reducing the formation of angiotensin
  • by inhibiting angiotensin converting enzyme
  • by blocking its active site
  • at least for the first few (and maybe more), by mimicking the shape of the blood-pressure lowering component of Bothrops jararaca venom

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