Updated November 9, 2020:

What Is a Chemical Patent?

Chemical patents are obtained by scientists to afford them the exclusive right to use specific chemicals, molecules, compounds, etc., in experimentation and product development, as well as the ability to prevent others from using the said substance for a set period. 

An inventor or scientist seeking to obtain a patent has to show how his or her invention is original and inventive. The individual needs to prove that it can become a marketable product or process in a particular industry by sharing all details of his or her work.

Because the details of the invention must be publicly shared, patents are a valuable learning resource for other inventors, researchers, and scientists. 

Why Use Patents as an Information Source?

With scientific journals and other research tools available, how does a patent prove to be a source for research

Here are a few things that can be learned from patents:

  • The history of the development of the patented invention, technology, or chemical.
  • An understanding of the work that has been previously completed in this particular field of study.
  • Who the experts are in this field of study. 

Patents will look different depending on the country in which they are filed. Different laws apply to patent applications in other countries. Therefore, don't expect all the patents in a particular field to look the same if the inventor is seeking protection from around the world. 

Most Inventions Are Chemical Inventions

Usually, inventions include some kind of chemical piece, unless they are software developments. Most of the time, an invention is using materials for manipulation to change a substance or to control it somehow. Basically, if any invention uses substances or is "made up of something," it's likely to have a chemical piece of the puzzle. 

Types of Chemical Patent Claims

Chemical patents under United States laws include four different categories for chemical inventions:

  • Composition of matter claim — pertaining to the way in which a substance is used or the nature of the components.
  • Product by process claim — pertaining to the product that results from a particular process.
  • Process claim — pertaining to how the invention is made. 
  • Compound claim — pertaining to a specific chemical entity. 

An inventor of a new recipe may seek to patent that particular combination of ingredients with a composition of matter claim. 

If an inventor has discovered a new product through a particular process, he or she may want to claim rights to the new composition that results from the specific process used. 

Process claims can be sought out when an inventor finds a new process, perhaps a more efficient way of manufacturing a substance, to protect the specific way of manufacturing something.

Inventors can protect even the simplest substances with a compound claim. If a scientist creates a new atom or molecules, he or she can lay claim to that particular, single chemical. 

Compound Claims for New Molecules

Compound claims protect the inventions of new chemicals as defined by their specific structural formulas. These types of chemical patents cover the use of the protected chemical in every context, no matter how it's being used. 

Example Claim to Specific Molecule — Vitamin C

For example, the compound of vitamin C could be claimed based on its specific chemical makeup or structure. 

If a scientist invents a new molecule, he or she may lay claim to it for a period through a chemical patent as a way of enjoying a reward for such a grand contribution to the world of science. This is owing to the fact that this invention has opened up a new realm of possibilities for this new compound.

Once an inventor claims his or her new molecule in a compound claim, and the patent period ends, that compound can no longer be claimed itself. However, new uses or processes involving the molecule can be claimed and protected.

In the example of a compound claim over vitamin C, the manufacturing, use of, or marketing and selling of vitamin C are all protected. No one outside of the patent owner would be allowed to sell any product that uses vitamin C at all. No one other than the patent holder could lay claim to a process for creating vitamin C or a way of using it. Basically, this type of chemical patent covers all the bases for this particular compound, making it a very broad claim.

Chemical patents are a valuable piece of the overall patent puzzle, and understanding their usefulness is vital to any field of study.

If you need help with a chemical patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.