Frequently Asked Questions
What is a patent?
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. In order to be patentable, the invention must fulfill certain conditions (please see the answer to the question below ” what kinds of inventions can be patented?”).
What does a patent do?
A patent provides protection for the invention to the owner of the patent, in the form of an exclusive right. The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years.
Note however that a patent does NOT grant the owner the right to apply the claimed invention, but “only” gives the right to exclude others from applying the claimed invention. Be aware of the fact that earlier patents may limit an owner of applying an invention claimed in its own patent!
What kind of protection does a patent offer?
Patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, kept in store or sold without the patent owner’s consent. These patent rights are usually enforced in a court, which, in most systems, holds the authority to stop patent infringement. Conversely, a court can also declare a patent invalid upon a successful challenge by a third party.
What right does a patent owner have?
Why are patents necessary?
Patents provide incentives to individuals by offering them recognition for their creativity and material
reward for their marketable inventions. These incentives encourage innovation, which assures that the quality of human life is continuously enhanced. What Role do Patents Play in Everyday Life?
Patented inventions have, in fact, pervaded every aspect of human life, from electric lighting (patents held by Edison and Swan) and plastic (patents held by Baekeland), to ballpoint pens (patents held by Biro) and microprocessors (patents held by Intel, for example).
All patent owners are obliged, in return for patent protection, to publicly disclose information on their invention in order to enrich the total body of technical knowledge in the world. Such an ever-increasing body of public knowledge promotes further creativity and innovation in others. In this way, patents provide not only protection for the owner but valuable information and inspiration for future generations of researchers and inventors.
How is a patent granted?
What kind of inventions can be protected?
An invention must, in general, fulfill the following conditions to be protected by a patent. It must be of
practical use; it must show an element of novelty, that is, some new characteristic which is not known in the body of existing knowledge in its technical field. This body of existing knowledge is called ” prior art”. The invention must show an inventive step which could not be deduced by a person with average knowledge of the technical field. Finally, its subject matter must be accepted as “patentable” under law. In many countries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, commercial methods, or methods for medical treatment (as opposed to medical products) are generally not patentable.
Who grants patents?
How can a patent be obtained WordlWide?
At present, no world patents or international patents exist.
In general, an application for a patent must be filed, and a patent shall be granted and enforced, in each country in which you seek patent protection for your invention, in accordance with the law of that country. In some regions, a regional patent office, for example, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), accepts regional patent applications, or grants patents, which have the same effect as applications filed, or patents granted, in the member States of that region.
Further, any resident or national of a Contracting State of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) may file an international application under the PCT. A single international patent application has the same effect as national applications filed in each designated Contracting State of the PCT. However, under the PCT system, in order to obtain patent protection in the designated States, a patent shall be granted by each designated State to the claimed invention contained in the international application. Further information concerning the PCT is available.
Procedural and substantive requirements for the grant of patents as well as the amount of fees required are different from one country/region to the other. It is therefore recommend that you consult a practicing lawyer who is specialized in intellectual property or the intellectual property offices of those countries in which you are interested to get protection.
Can I discuss the details of my invention with a potential investor before filing a patent application?
It is important to file a patent application before publicly disclosing the details of the invention. In general, any invention which is made public before an application is filed would be considered prior art (although the definition of the term “prior art” is not unified at the international level, in many countries, it consists of any information which has been made available to the public anywhere in the world by written or oral disclosure). In countries which apply the above definition of the term “prior art”, the applicant’s public disclosure of the invention prior to filing a patent application would prevent him/her from obtaining a valid patent for that invention, since such invention would not comply with the novelty requirement. Some countries, however, allow for a grace period, which provides a safeguard for applicants who disclosed their inventions before filing a patent application, and the novelty criteria may be interpreted differently depending on the applicable law.
If it is inevitable to disclose your invention to, for example, a potential investor or a business partner, before filing a patent application, such a disclosure should be accompanied by a confidentiality agreement.
At the sites listed below you will find worthwhile information on Intellectual Property, especially patents.