PATENTS II. What is Patentable?
Patents are issued on new objects or processes which serve a utilitarian function. A bicycle, for example, serves a utilitarian function, it allows you to ride from point A to point B. A utilitarian function is almost any function, but there are exceptions, as noted below.
A. Function Exception #1: Copyright.
One exception to the "almost any function" criteria used to define utilitarian function is objects which serve an "aesthetic function", i.e., which basically only appeal to your personal taste. Such objects do not serve a utilitarian function, cannot be patented, and are instead protected under copyright law. Such objects include, for example, sculptures, paintings, photographs, music recordings, books, and jewelry. The painting shown below is copyrightable, and not patentable, as is the above photograph of the clock.
B. Function Exception #2: Trademarks.
A second exception to the "almost any function" criteria comprises words, symbols, or objects which serve a "source identification" function". A trademark serves a source identification function because the mark indicates one particular company that produces of product or provides a service. Such words, symbols, or objects do not serve a utilitarian function, can not be patented, are called trademarks, and are protected under trademark law.
Examples of trademarks are AMERICAN AIRLINES, KODAK, TITLEIST, the green ribbed Coca Cola bottle, and the "Gold Arches" building design used by Macdonald's.
The TITLEIST trademark is protected under trademark law, and not under patent law. Disclaimer: Tod R. Nissle PC is not sponsored by or associated in any way with Titleist.
PHOTOGRAPH ATTRIBUTIONS: "Clock". Thank you publicdomainpictures.net. "Two Little Girls Picking Flowers" by Jean Rachmiel. Thank you Camille L. Hill.