Something essential to know about patents is that they give exclusive protection to an inventor's creation. When granted, patents provide rights of ownership to an invented process, design, or product. Patentable inventions offer a brand-new way of doing something or present a technical answer to a problem. It is a legal license issued by the government that documents all aspects of an invention. You must disclose technical information to the public when applying.

After receiving a patent, its owner may choose to keep it to him or herself or do either of the following:

  • License or award permission to specific parties to use his or her invention after it is mutual everyone agrees on specified terms.
  • Sell the rights of the invention, making another person owner of the patent.

A patent does not last forever. After it expires, protected rights also end and the invention become part of the public domain. That means anyone can exploit the product or process with commercial intent and not infringe on the patent.

Since the protection rights of a patent are exclusive, the owner decides who can or cannot use the product for the duration of the protected period. That means no one else can sell, distribute, use, import, or manufacture it for profit without consent from the patent owner. Getting a patent establishes that the owner's intellectual property has security against other parties infringing upon it.

What Does a Patent Cover?

Whether it is a new device for slicing bread or a microchip, you can get a patent for it. A patentable design can be a product or process for making a product. Furthermore, it is not uncommon that a device has several connected inventions comprising it. For example, a laptop could have multiple inventions helping other components to make the machine work.

What Are Characteristics of Inventions Worth Patenting?

No matter how brilliant a thought a person has, you cannot patent an idea. You can, however, turn an idea into something with novelty that could receive a patent. 

By definition, an invention is an "inventive" technical solution to a specific technical problem within a particular industry. It should be new and not a blatant add-on to something already existing. The critical characteristic is the invention's inventiveness. Furthermore, it cannot be something apparent and straightforward enough that any person with basic knowledge in the relative field could deduce. It must also have an industrial application. It cannot just apply to theory. It needs a practical utility.

If you intend to turn an idea into an invention and get a patent, the innovation must not get classified in any of these groups listed below:

  • therapeutic or surgical processes for animal or human bodies or means of diagnosis
  • anything opposing law and order
  • animal production, animal species, or plant methods
  • mathematical formulae, scientific theories, or discoveries
  • computer programs
  • rules of a game, aesthetic makings, techniques, principles, or plans

If you have an inventive idea, you need to structure it into an asset or design that is tangible to get consideration by the patent authority. You can do that by getting detailed drawings and outlined descriptions or you can build a prototype.

Additional Things To Know About Patents

As mentioned earlier, licenses end after a period. From the date a person applies and for 20 years following, an invention can have protection under patent law.

Territory determines patent rights. Patent protection is only applicable according to the geographic location where the application got filed. It is the law of that land that governs the patent's rights. Either a national patent office or one that covers a region of a few countries can grant licenses. Below is a list of all the international offices operating now:

  • Patent Office of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
  • African Intellectual Property Organization
  • European Patent Office
  • Eurasian Patent Organization
  • African Regional Intellectual Property Organization

A right owner can take another party to court if he or she feels that patent infringement is at play. Courts have the power to end it. Although, it is up to the patent owner to identify, monitor, and should it be necessary, take action against infringers.

If you need help with anything about patents, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb