A patent is an exclusive right granted to an inventor in respect of an invention, which may be a product or a process that provides a new and innovative way of doing something, or offers a new and inventive technical solution to a problem. Examples of patents range from electric lighting (Edison) and plastic (patents held by Baekeland), to ballpoint pens (patents held by Biro), microprocessors (patents held by Intel) , telephones (patents held by Bell).
Not everything can be patented. In order to be able to patent a new invention this has to be:
- new or novel, that is, it must show some new characteristic which is not known in the body of existing knowledge (called “prior art”) in its technical field.
- non-obvious or involve an inventive step, that is, it could not be deduced by a person with average knowledge in the technical field.
- useful or capable of industrial application
- part of the so-called “patentable subject matter” under the applicable 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 not considered to be patentable subject matter.
How do you get a patent ?
The first step in securing a patent is the filing of a patent application. The patent application generally contains the title of the invention and a brief statement of the technical field in which the invention lies, as well as thebackground and a description of the invention in a manner sufficiently clear for it to be evaluated and carried out by a person having ordinary skill in the arts. 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. The patent rights are usually enforced in a court, which, in most systems, holds the authority to stop patent infringement.