What is the process to decide if the tangible invention is a machine, device or apparatus? Any line of thought and supporting examples is appreciated.

A singular \ monolithic invention may fit any of the three. I usually think of a machine or device as monolithic item.

That being said, if the invention is an array of multiple computers to measure phenomena (a system of discrete computers), is the better label for the invention: a measurement apparatus? If there is another label that is not mention and is more appropriate would be of interest.

1 Answer 1


I would use "system". The law (35 USC 101) lists the statuary categories as "processes, machines, manufactures and compositions of matter." Something with active parts would be a machine; a hammer or a baseball would be an item that was manufactured.

You'll see that either "apparatus" or "device" is on that list. It doesn't really matter what you call your thing as long as you do not mix specifying the structure of a thing and a step in a process in the same claim. For example

"A system comprising a CPU and a memory [taking the step of] turning itself off upon reaching a predetermined temperature"

It mixes things with actions and would be rejected as not sticking to one statutory class.

  • 1
    “A system comprising a cpu configured to turn itself off“ would be okay though.
    – user18033
    Aug 4, 2018 at 10:24
  • 1
    yes - that would avoid the problem of my example.
    – George White
    Aug 4, 2018 at 17:23

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