I've come up with a unique way to give tourists their pictures. It's a specific workflow that utilizes properties specific to the Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. I am certain that the steps of my process have never been combined to provide the service I plan to offer. Since the Surface is a relatively new product, and I don't think anyone's used a tablet in exactly the same way, do I stand a chance of getting a patent?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can patent a specific process like a workflow. But in your case there are three potential stumbling blocks: one legal, one practical, and one economic.

Legal: you can only patent a nonobvious process, so stringing together conventional activities into a workflow would likely be insufficient to receive a patent. Novelty ("the steps of my process have never been combined to provide the service I plan to offer") is not enough, in and of itself, to be rewarded with a right to exclude others; it has to be nonobvious too. See 35 U.S.C. § 103(a). Knowing whether something is nonobvious is a very factually intensive process and depends on the specific steps you're attempting to protect.

Practical: the backlog in reviewing patent applications is so long (3+ years) that by the time any patent you filed was granted the Microsoft Surface 3 tablet would likely be obsolete. Filing applications covering processes that will only be relevant for a short period of time greatly reduces the value of any patent you receive. See "Average Pendency of US Patent Applications."

Economic: filing for, obtaining, and leveraging a patent is extraordinarily expensive. Even an extremely simple invention such as a coat hanger could cost $5,000 to $7,000 in attorneys fees to obtain a patent. See The Cost of Obtaining a Patent in the US. You would be in a better position to know the value of your invention, but most patents are worth less than $10,000, which in many cases means it costs more to obtain them than they're worth once granted. See "A Patent Is Worth Having, Right? Well, Maybe Not."

  • Thank you for the answers above. Regarding the practicality of the patent, it's dependent on the advances in tablet technology, i.e. the Surface is superior to the iPad in regards to its power. The workflow has been possible on desktops for years. My concern is that when people see my success they'll copy me. Maybe working hard to stay on top is the practical answer... Thank you again. Aug 24, 2014 at 15:50

A method or process can indeed be patented. As for whether your workflow in particular is patent-eligible, that would depend on the details of the workflow and how it is claimed, as you'll discover during the patent prosecution process.

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