What is a Patent?

A patent is a right granted by the government to the inventor, which instantly gives the inventor the power to prohibit others from selling, using, or making the invention without their (the inventor’s) consent. Alternatively, the inventor can allow others to use their invention under agreed terms. Although getting a patent for an invention is not a requirement so that the inventor can put an idea into practice, it is a critical step to take, especially if the inventor wants to claim ownership to their invention.

The patent is granted for a limited period of time (usually 20 years from the filling date of the patent application), during which the invention is the property of the inventor and can be treated like any other form of business or property asset. This means that it can be hired, sold, bought, or rented. It should also be noted that the inventor that has been granted a patent also has the right to take legal action against anybody who attempts to infringe the invention, and claim damages.

What is Patentable?

An invention can qualify for a patent if it is:

  • Novel – It is nothing alike similar inventions in, at least, one of its parts.  Moreover, it should not have been patented, sold, or publicly used by another inventor within 12 months of the date on which the inventor has filed the patent application.
  • Non-obvious – This means that people with good knowledge in the field of the invention regard it as an inventive step or a surprising/unexpected development.
  • Capable of industrial application – Some kind of industry has to be able to make or use the invention.
  • Useful – The invention needs to be operable and have some beneficial use.

Examples of Patentable Ideas/Items

  • Chemical processes/formulas
  • Computer hardware/software
  • Medical devices.
  • Drugs
  • Genetically engineered animals, plants, and bacteria.
  • Fabric designs and fabrics
  • Furniture design
  • Musical instruments
  • Jewelry

What is NOT Patentable?

  • Naturally occurring laws of nature and substances (even if newly discovered).
  • A mathematical method/formula.
  • A scientific theory.
  • Fundamental truths and abstract principles.
  • A method of treatment of the animal or human body by therapy, surgery, or a diagnostic method.
  • Artistic work or an aesthetic creation.
  • Any presentation of information.
  • Anything regarded as unethical or contrary to morality or public order.
  • Perpetual motion machines.

Final Considerations:

  1. A patent is a territorial right. Generally speaking, it is not valid in every country. On the contrary, its exclusive right is applicable in the region or country in which it has been granted, always abiding by that region or country’s pertaining laws.
  2. A court of law is authorised (in most systems) to stop patent infringement. Nevertheless, it is the patent owner’s responsibility to monitor, identify, and bring infringers to a courtroom.
  3. Patents cannot be obtained if the inventor wishes to keep the invention secret. Patent offices require a full disclosure of the invention for a patent to be granted. The details of the invention are made available to the public. However, that can occur in various stages of the procedure (i.e. after granting a patent).