Top Menu

Patents explained

Patents explained?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something or offers a new solution to a problem. In order to be patentable, the invention must fulfill certain conditions.

What does a patent do?

A patent provides protection for the invention to the owner of the patent. The protection isgrant ed for a limited period, generally 20 years.

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.

How is a patent granted?

The first step in securing a patent is the filing of a patent application. The patent application generally contains the title of the invention, as well as an indication of its technical field; it must include the background and a description of the invention, in clear language and enough detail that an individual with an average understanding of the field could use or reproduce the invention. Such descriptions are usually accompanied by visual materials such as drawings, plans, or diagrams to better describe the invention. The application also contains various “claims”, that is, information which determines the extent of protection granted by the patent.

What kind of protection does a patent offer?

Patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed 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 rights does a patent owner have?

A patent owner has the right to decide who may – or may not – use the patented invention for the period in which the invention is protected. The patent owner may give permission to, or license, other parties to use the invention on mutually agreed terms. The owner may also sell the right to the invention to someone else, who will then become the new owner of the patent. Once a patent expires, the protection ends, and an invention enters the public domain, that is, the owner no longer holds exclusive rights to the invention, which becomes available to commercial exploitation by others.

What role do patents play in everyday life?

Patented inventions have, in fact, pervaded every aspect of human life, from electric lighting and plastic, to ballpoint pens and microprocessors. 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.

What kinds 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.

Source: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Small Business Can Newsletter
Small Business Can is run by businesspeople for businesspeople. We share our experiences, successes and failures. Sign up for our insightful (and sometimes funny) newsletter and stay up to speed with all the latest insights.

2 Responses to Patents explained

  1. R&D January 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Are there any tax breaks left for owning patents either in Ireland or the UK?

  2. Protection January 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Is there any way to protect apatent for 12 months without going to the expense of having to pay to protect a patent in a particular territory?

Leave a Reply