What is a Patent?
A patent is a monopoly right granted on an invention by a government of a country, allowing the holder the right to prevent the copying of the invention.
Patents are applicable only to particular countries, and for a set time period, and must be applied (and paid) for. Having a patent doesn’t mean you have been granted the right to profit from your invention, someone else might have a patent on something required to make your invention useful. Patent law is naturally different in different countries, although there are some moves to harmonise patent law (European Patent Ofiice and Reforms of Chinese patent law due to WTO).
- UK Intellectual Property Office: http://www.ipo.gov.uk
- European Patent Office: http://www.epo.org
- US Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.uspto.com
- Japan Patent Office http://www.jpo.go.jp
- Chinese State Intellectual Property Office: http://www.sipo.gov.cn/sipo_English
- World Intellectual Property Organisation: http://www.wipo.int
Patents are awarded in return for the public disclosure of information sufficient to reproduce the invention. In recognition for the benefit to society from the increased public knowledge, the government gives the right to prevent unwarranted reproduction of the invention. This gives a greater return for their research expenditure, and it meant to act as an added incentive.
The applicant discloses information about the invention, and must pay application and maintenance fees if the application is granted. In return he receives the patent, which is an exclusive right to use his invention, and can have considerable strategic value.
What is an invention?
An invention could be something completely new, or an improvement to an existing invention, an alternative to an existing method, or even a new combination of existing technologies. For a patent to be granted the invention has to be technical in character (rather than just decorative), novel, inventive, and useful.
There are differences as what counts as novel, and inventive between different countries, as this is difficult to generally define.