I have a new use for an old device, can I patent it? | Intellectual property and business law blog

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Steve O'Donnell, Ph.D. Registered Patent Attorney

I have a new use for an old device, can I patent it?

“Steve, I’ve discovered this floor cleaner is also a delicious dessert topping…”

If you discover a new use for an old device, it might be patentable. For example, if you discover that cheese curls can kill certain cancers you can probably patent that because “who would ever have thought of that?” Thing is, if you get a patent it’s only going to cover the new use, and not the underlying product. So even if we can get a claim to “a method of treating certain cancers by eating a bunch of Cheetos” you’re not going to be able to sue companies making cheese curls unless they start advertising the product’s use to cure cancer. That’s where the problem comes in, if you find a new use for my product, I’m going to sell a lot more of my product and as long as I don’t promote the new use, I won’t have to pay you.