Can I patent a philosophy?

I'm very new to IP law and was disappointed to find out that the US now uses a first to file system like everyone else. Before spending money on legal services, I want to educate myself as much as possible.

I've been working on a philosophical concept which can be boiled down to a very simple qualitative formula. It is going to be the foundation for a number of entrepreneurial projects of mine. The simple formula is very high level. If a philosophy can be patented, I need to get an understanding of what level of detail and explanation is most appropriate.

Can anyone recommend reading/web resource on this subject, law firms worth discussing this with or other resources in the New York area?

1 Answer 1


No, you can only patent:

any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof

35 USC 101

The courts have read into this (along with being informed by constitutional constraints) judicial exceptions which preclude abstract ideas, laws of nature, and mathematical formulas from being patentable subject matter.

  • So if you define philosophy as a rational conceptual discipline and the ability to philosophize, as the skill or 'process' with which we can logically refine our ideas.. you couldn't patent it as a useful process?
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 14:08
  • 1
    @Pete - "Business process" patents are an extremely contentious subject. There's plenty of reading to be had on that term. Might even be worth posting an answer here if you research it.
    – feetwet
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 14:12
  • No. I edited to include the exceptions. Mental steps will be considered abstract ideas.
    – user3851
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 14:12
  • @dawn - I had a follow up question to this which looks to have been deleted (?). You mentioned 2 cases relevant to business process patents I should read. What were they again please?
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 18:25

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