Skip to Main Content

Patents: What cannot be patented?

What cannot be patented?

The following can not be patented:

  • Vague ideas.
  • Discoveries.
  • Scientific theories/mathematical methods.
  • Literary, dramatic or artistic works.
  • A method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business.
  • Plant varieties.
  • Method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy or method of diagnosis.

Information from British Library (no date) What is a patent? Available at: (Accessed: 22 June 2018).


Example of a US design patent

Detail from US design patent 253,711 showing a Lego figure

Detail from US Design Patent 253,711.  Design patents are often called "registered designs" in other countries and are registered separately, but in the US designs are part of the patent system.


Christiansen, G.K. (1979) Toy figure. United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent no. Des. 253,711. Available at: (Accessed: 22 June 2018).