Composition of Matter Claims

Compositions of matter are one of the four principle categories of patentable subject matter

Compositions of matter are one of the four principle categories of patentable subject matter

Patenting a Composition of Matter

Composition of matter claims are considered to be among the most powerful patent claims possible because they are broadly applicable.  They cover any use of the claimed composition of matter.  (By contrast method claims would only cover one method but not necessarily other uses).

What is a composition of matter?

Under United States patent law, a composition of matter is one of the four principal categories of inventions that may be patented.  The law provides that “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, subject to the conditions and requirements of [title 35 of the United States Code]”  See 35 U.S.C. 101.

Hopefully, the terms “process,” “machine,” and “manufacture” are pretty straightforward based on their conventional meanings.  A composition of matter refers to the stuff that an invention is made out of.  In particular, defining a composition of matter requires identifying its molecular composition.

The United States Supreme Court has defined “composition of matter” to mean “all compositions of two or more substances . . . .”  This definition is somewhat problematic because it fails to account for inventions made of only one substance.  In practice, those one-substance inventions (aka “new chemical entities” or “new molecules”) are called compounds, which is confusing because “compound” is not listed in the categories of patentable subject matter.  The easiest way to make sense of this discrepancy is to consider a “compound” to be a special class of “composition of matter,” having only one molecular formula.

A composition of matter is a mixture of two or more compounds, i.e., a mixture of two or more chemically distinct molecules

A composition of matter is a mixture of two or more compounds, i.e., a mixture of two or more chemically distinct molecules

Claiming a composition of matter

An inventor should draft claims to a composition of matter any time the invention differs from the prior art on account of its chemical profile.  If the invention can be distinguished base on using new ingredients or different combinations of known ingredients, then it is likely that the invention could be defined as a composition of matter.  Here, it is essential to understand the underlying chemical features of the invention.

Some examples of new compositions of matter would include the following:

  • New drug molecules (i.e., new compounds)
  • New formulations of known drugs
  • New drinks or beverages, such as sports drinks, beer, vitamin concoctions, etc.
  • New food recipes, including new flavors
  • New materials, such as plastics, metal alloys, etc.

Notably, the above list of “new” inventions does not require that the ingredients are new.  So long as the resulting combination provides something different than anything made before, that end product could be described as a new composition of matter.  In the case of food and beverages, the resulting flavor is a relatively good indicator that the end product is new.  Flavors and fragrances come from molecules.  A different flavor or fragrance would indicate that the underlying molecular composition is different.

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