What is a patent?
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 technical solution to a problem.
What does a patent do?
patent provides protection for the invention to the owner of the patent.
The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years.
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.
does a patent owner have?
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.
Why are 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
Examples of Ineffective and Effective Patent
Russian scientist Alexander Popov invented radio
telecommunication and demonstrated it publicly on 7
May 1895 at the meeting of the Russian
physics-chemistry scientific society.
Yet, most people
believe that it was the Italian scientist Guglielmo
Marconi who invented radio telecommunication. Why?
Because his was the first to apply for the patent.
He applied for it in June 1896.
Russian engineer Ivan Polzunov invented and
built a steam engine in 1766. The machine worked
well for quite a while. Ivan Polzunov didn't
register his invention officially because he died of
pneumonia just before his steam engine was launched.
Watt, a Scottish engineer, launched his steam engine
10 years later, in 1776. Yet, it's him who is widely
believed to be the inventor of the steam engine
because he did all the paperwork properly.
1840s, around 20 inventors from various countries
patented a light bulb.
Thomas Edison, a
U.S. scientist, patented his first commercially
successful bulb in 1879. Yet, it is Thomas Edison
who is usually credited with the invention of the
light bulb. Why? Because Thomas Edison bought the
patents of other inventors and started
experimenting with various types of filaments
invented by others to come out with one that would
make a lamp practical.
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
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 kinds of
inventions can be protected?
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.
patent is granted by a national patent office or by a regional office that does
the work for a number of countries, such as the European Patent Office and the
African Regional Industrial Property Organization. Under such regional systems,
an applicant requests protection for the invention in one or more countries, and
each country decides as to whether to offer patent protection within its
borders. The WIPO-administered Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides for the
filing of a single international patent application which has the same effect as
national applications filed in the designated countries. An applicant seeking
protection may file one application and request protection in as many signatory
states as needed.