A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to an inventor or applicant for a limited amount of time (normally 20 years from the filing date). It is a legal document defining ownership of a particular area of new technology.
To gain a valid patent the invention must be new (novel), involve an inventive step or be non-obvious, and be capable of industrial application. Some countries have specific exclusions preventing things from being patented such as the making of nuclear bombs.
What does new mean?
An invention is considered new if it does not form part of the state of the art.
What is the State of the Art?
The state of the art comprises everything that is known or used in public in any way, anywhere in the world, before the date of filing of the patent application.
What is inventive Step?
An invention is considered as involving an inventive step if it is not obvious to a skilled person having regard to the state of the art.
Industrial applicability : The invention must be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry, including agriculture. Generally, it does not include one-offs.
Excluded Subject Matters : Many countries have specific exclusions to certain inventions such as the patenting of plants and animals or the patenting of scientific theories. As long as the above criteria are met the United States has very few exclusions to patentability.
The reasons for filing a patent application are as varied as are the reasons for the existence of the vast numbers of industries, businesses and products that populate our daily lives – but the main reason that dominates an applicant’s decision to file a patent (or any Industrial Property for that matter) is to maintain an advantage gained through brilliant innovation, small hard-earned incremental advances or even through good luck.
Filing a patent application is all about maintaining and exploiting a market or a technological advantage. A patent allows its owner a legal means to prevent would be competitors from gaining a foothold into a particular area of commercial endeavor that would not otherwise be possible. Patents can be used positively as a means to capture an area that needs to be developed, or they can be used negatively as a deterrent to unauthorized copiers. Either way they are a formidable commercial too.
Patents provide the platform for making important commercial decisions – they are all about how best to use limited capital resources for greatest impact. It has been said that Patents allow innovators to gain vital bridgeheads into technical areas which can be exploited to :
- Consolidate a Strong market position.
- Provide new Revenue streams through the licensing or sale.
- Gain investment funds to develop and market new products.
- Increase in negotiating power through cross licenses or Joint Venture agreements.
- Provide a positive image to potential investors, customers, manufacturers and distributors
- Attract and retain key personnel enabling new products to be developed further.
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