I am applying for a patent on a method to allocate transportation resources (e.g. trucks) among loads. Central to the patent is a (very simple) mathematical formula, into which I plug some variables (a+b=Z) to get a useful value Z.

Is my formula a method? Can it be used as a part of an embodiment? Can it be listed along with materials and methods, e.g. "A computer and a program on the computer and a method within the program performing operation a+b=Z"?

Sometimes I will use an additional variable c (a+b+c=Z) for the computation. Is this a separate embodiment? Is it a ramification?

Sometimes a and b are measured in units of distance, and sometimes in units of time, and sometimes in units of money. In each case there are conversions into a common unit before the computation is made. For example, I could have a minutes and b miles and c dollars, and a conversion of $2/minute and $3/mile, convert a and b into dollars by multiplying, and add them all to get Z in dollars. Is this an embodiment? Do I list my conversion factors as materials, like widgets?

I suppose my question is, "Given that a simple algebraic formula is vital to my invention, and given that the equation may appear with different terms or different units, what is the most logical way to describe this to the patent examiner?"

Thanks loads


  • Three separate claim types: A computer programmed to do X Y & Z (a machine). A method of optimizing N comprising the steps X Y and Z (method). A non-transient computer readable media containing instructions for a computer to do X Y & then Z.( an article of manufacture, called a CRM or Beauregard claim.)
    – George White
    Sep 29, 2013 at 23:56
  • Must I have written the program before I file? Is it enough to work out the algorithm with pencil and paper only? My intention was really to patent the method, not the program or the algorithm. To give an analogy, you can either patent a sorting routine (say, Bubblesort), or you can patent the practice(?) of putting items in alphabetical order so you can find them faster. The first patent is worthless when someone invents a better sort routine; the second yields royalties every time someone prints alphabetized phone books. Sep 30, 2013 at 0:47
  • For "practice(?)" read "method". Sep 30, 2013 at 2:27

1 Answer 1


First, do not use words like "mathematical" in a patent application. There can be a fine line between what is considered a mere mathematical manipulation (not patentable subject matter) and what is a specific, tangible use of a mathematical expression. How it is worded can impart a flavor that swings it one way or the other.

You do not need to write a program but you do need to explain your invention at a level of detail that someone could make and use it. Both lower level and higher level things can be patented. A process of purifying silicon for use in making integrated circuits, a process for using silicon to make IC's in general, the design of a specific IC, and using that IC in a particular circuit for a particular end use, are all patentable. Of course, whatever you are doing must be new and non-obvious to be patentable. And, in order to be worth patenting, should be something that provides value to a user in a way that is not easy to get around.

If sorting alphabetically for rapid location by binary search is already known, and hyper-threaded CPUs have just been invented, maybe the world needs a new multithreaded sorting technique. On the other hand, you might have "big picture" invention and the details of the various aspects of implementation are well known.

A danger of claiming at a high a level is that it seems abstract; a danger of claiming at a low level is there will be more than one way to do it.

  • There are people who promote patenting math…
    – Geremia
    Sep 26, 2014 at 4:30

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