— Jessica Gutierrez Alm, Attorney

One principal requirement for obtaining a utility patent is that the invention be useful.  “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor.” 35 U.S.C. 101.  The usefulness requirement has roots in the Constitutional grant of power for issuing patents, providing that “Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 8.

To meet the usefulness requirement, patented inventions often aim to solve a particular problem.

For example, this seasonably appropriate invention seeks to provide a solution for those who have a tendency to leave their Christmas lights up year-round:


Oskorep et al. provide for a light strand with a plurality of different colored lights, allowing a user to choose which colors to display at a particular time of year or for a particular holiday.  The light strand even has pre-set holiday settings for Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, and others.  Very useful.


Or if you’re like me with an adventurous cat who loves to scale the Christmas tree, you might find this invention useful this time of year:


As stated in the Background of the Ross patent, “pets, such as cats, like to climb up the branches of a Christmas tree. Oftentimes this will result in knocking some of the ornaments off such tree. These ornaments may be broken as a result of hitting something, such as the tree stand, as they fall.”  Yep, I’ve lost a few ornaments that way.  To solve this problem, Ross’s patent is directed toward a screen apparatus that affixes to the bottom of a Christmas tree to prevent pets from climbing the tree.  I’ll be waiting for this one to go into production.


Here’s a useful holiday invention for parents seeking to properly convinece their children of a recent visit from Santa:



The Colak Santa Kit includes a package of glitter, a boot print stencil, and a letter “profess[ing] to be from Santa.”  The Santa Kit also includes an engaging diorama.

As we can see, each invention may meet the usefulness requirement in its own way.

Happy holidays!