What is a Patent
To protect their technology, innovative entrepreneurs and inventors should be familiar with key concepts about patents. Indeed, patents are the legal tool which allows to protect inventions. This article – and the associated video – includes basic information about patents, patentability criteria, how to use patents for business, and how to seek professional advice.
So, what is a patent? It is a legal certificate which gives the right to protect inventions.
Rights conferred by a patent – In particular, a patent confers the right to exclude others from making, using, selling and importing an invention.
Patentable inventions – A patent can be asked for different kinds of inventions, such as products, devices, systems, machines, chemical compositions, processes, methods, and uses.
When a patent application is filed, it is examined by a patent office.
Patentability criteria – First of all, the invention must be absolutely new to the world. So, any disclosure of an invention before filing a patent application is a fatal error. However, novelty is not enough. A patentable invention must also be not-obvious, or inventive. The explanation of this concept goes beyond the purposes of this article. For the sake of simplicity, we can say that a straightforward modification of an existing product can be novel, but not inventive. Also, in many countries, patents can be granted only for inventions which solve a technical problem. Another important aspect is that patent protection cannot be granted for mere ideas. The inventor must also disclose how the invention works and how it is reduced to practice. This criterion is also known as sufficiency of disclosure.
Time limit – The protection conferred by a patent can last up to 20 years from the date of filing.
Territorial limit – Bear in mind that patents are territorial rights. This means that patent’s rights can be enforced only in those countries where a patent application has been filed. When patent protection is sought for many countries, to ease the procedure, European or International (PCT) patent applications can be filed. Typically, many companies file a patent application for their home country, and then – within no more than 12 months – file a European or International patent application, which allow to group several countries at once. For those who want to learn more about International patent applications, we prepared a user-friendly guide.
Patents & Business – A common way to use patents is licencing, i.e. renting it, to collect royalties. Otherwise, patents can be sold. Of course, those who want to manufacture their invention can keep the patent for themselves and get the monopoly for their technology. A valuable aspect is that patents can help to enhance brand reputation and attract investors – we have covered these topics in another video.
How to seek professional advice – The do-it-yourself approach is not wise when dealing with patents. A best practice is to search professional advice. Uncle Google and word-of-mouth are certainly the methods everybody knows. However, we wanted to offer something else. We recently launched a platform where users can post requests to find a patent professional: PatentProjects.net. A strength point is that users, in a single page, can view the profile of several candidates (professionals) with their competences and skills and, most importantly, with a rating given by previous users. This can be done free of charge and with no obligation.
Of course, as we hope you have learned reading this article, users don’t have to disclose details about their idea/product when posting the job offer – and can even stay anonymous!
Disclaimer: this article wants to give only general information about patents, explained in a simplified way. Some aspects of patent protection may vary from country to country.