My question is simple, if I take a published algorithm and apply it to a different problem than the one described in the publication is this patentable?

Since, for obvious reasons, I don’t want to disclose specific information let me use an imaginary example to better describe my situation. Suppose I have found a published method (an algorithm mainly) which described how to efficiently compute the rate of heat transfer from hot coffee drink to the cup, i.e. how quickly the cup will be heated. If I apply the same method (algorithm) to a different case, let’s say, to compute how quickly crowd moves to the exits when the alarm fires, or how quickly the fragments of an explosion will move, is this case patentable?

Note: Although the underlying method is the same, some modifications may be necessary or even some extra steps may need to be added in order to apply it to the different case.

Thank you for advance for your comments


Short answer is yes, you should be able to get a patent in the US so long as (1) your application is nonobvious (i.e., a significant step beyond the prior art) and (2) you draft claims that are focused on practical application of the algorithm. The vast majority of inventions rely upon well known physical phenomenon such as gravity or Maxwell's equations. Such reliance is not a bar to patentability. If you want to read more on the law pertaining to this particular issue, the most focused case is the Supreme Court's decision in Diamond v. Diehr where the court found that a computerized method of curing rubber that relied upon a well known mathematical equation was, in fact, patentable.

To get some perspective, you might try searching for patents on similar ideas and see what they cover.

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