Patents – What Are They?
What is a patent?
A patent is a monopoly right granted by the government to an inventor, who has used her/his skill to invent something new. For a limited period, the inventor can stop others from making, using or selling the invention without her/his permission.
The government grants patents since there are clear benefits to society from doing so. The trade off between a patent owner and the government is that the patent owner discloses the knowledge and technical process behind the invention, which is then available to the public. In the short term, the public gain knowledge of technological developments, and in the long term they will be able to freely use this information once the patent ceases.
What sort of thing is patentable?
In order to gain patent protection the invention must be:
- New. The invention cannot have been disclosed to the public anywhere in the world before the patent application date.
- Involve an ‘inventive step’. This requirement is fulfilled, if when the invention is compared with what is already known, the invention would not be obvious to someone with good knowledge and experience of the subject matter of the invention. If your invention can be examined and found to be genuinely ‘inventive’ by someone with a good knowledge and experience of the subject matter of the invention, then you can claim that your invention offers an ‘inventive step’.
- Be capable of industrial application. The invention should be capable of being embodied in technical applications so that it can be made or used in some kind of industry. Therefore the invention must take the practical form of an apparatus or device. ‘Industry’ is meant in the
broadest possible sense, and also extends to agriculture.
- Not within the following categories:
- A discovery of a natural process;
- A scientific theory or mathematical method;
- An aesthetic creation such as a literary, dramatic or artistic work;
- A scheme or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
- The presentation of information;
- A computer program;
- A new animal or plant variety;
- A method or treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy;
- A method of diagnosis.
How long does the patent last?
For 20 years you will have monopoly intellectual property rights over the product or processes claimed. For these purposes, ‘monopoly’ means that without permission, nobody else can manufacture or sell the product or use the process disclosed in your patent. In exchange for this monopoly, you consent to publication of full details of the invention and its workability.
What types of things are patentable?
Products or processes that contain or possess new functional or technical aspects can be patented. A patent may extend to entirely new products, enhancements to existing products or to a new or improved process for performing an activity. An example of a famous patent is the Dyson vacuum cleaner.
Who may be granted a patent?
It is presumed that the inventor has the right to be granted the patent. However, this is not always the case. If a number of people have been involved in developing the invention or supporting the process, then the invention is the result of more than one person’s work. It can be difficult to identify which of those people actually made the ‘inventive step’ or process. For this reason, it is useful to keep a detailed log book of each person’s contribution to the invention, which can help avoid future dispute.
Patent applicants may be an individual or a company. Applicants can make joint applications in which both parties will have rights once the patent is granted.
Generally, if a patent is granted to a person during the course of her/his employment and as a part of her/his contracted duties then the invention will belong to the employer.
Patent law is highly complex. Our patent lawyers are highly experienced and provide city quality advice at local prices. We represent clients throughout Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire and nationwide. You can meet with our patent lawyers in our Salisbury or Andover offices. Alternatively by taking your instructions by telephone and e-mail, we can represent you without needing to meet.