Updated October 28, 2020:

You're probably wondering how do patents work and why. The short definition of a patent is that it is an exclusive right granted for a single invention. A patent:

  • Is an exclusive right to a new way of doing an established process;
  • Offers a new solution to an established problem
  • Is a unique creation that offers a unique, new, or novel way of achieving a means to an end

In order to get a patent, the inventor must include technical information about the product and disclose it to the public in the application.

When an inventor comes up with a new creation, usually the first thing they want to do is to get it patented. Patents are given by a government and are a way of giving the inventor ownership of their creation. For a specific period of time, a patent holder is allowed to control how the invention is used and allows them to realize financial gain from their work. A patent is a legally binding manifestation of a person's intellectual property. They allow the inventor to own and enforce their idea.

The owner of a patent may give permission or license third parties to use the invention on terms that all parties agree on. The owner may also sell the right to the invention to someone who then becomes the new owner of the patent. When a patent expires, usually after 20 years, the protection ends, and the invention belongs to the public domain. When a patent is in the public domain, anyone can exploit the invention on a commercial level without worrying about infringement.

Licensing a Patent

Someone who licenses a patent grants permission to another individual or organization to make use and sell their invention. This happens under agreed-upon terms and conditions for a defined purpose, an agreed-upon amount of time, and compensation. 

The reasons why a patent owner might grant a license to a third party are many. The owner of the patent may not have access to manufacturing facilities and allows others to make their invention for royalty payments. Or the patent owner may have the facilities but may not have the capacity to cover market demand. Licensing the patent to another manufacturer has the potential to create greater profits and expand the reach of the invention.

Why Should I Consider Patenting an Invention?

Patents provide the inventor with the exclusive right to prevent others from commercially exploiting the invention for 20 years from the date of filing the application. 

A patent also provides a return on investment. Inventors usually invest a considerable sum of money and time into developing their product. An exclusive patent right gives rise to the potential for a return of the time and money invested into the development. 

Having a portfolio of patents can make the company more interesting to a potential buyer. Someone looking to buy the company may find that the patents are worth exploiting and add to the overall value of the company. In the event that a partnership is being developed, a portfolio of patents could lead to a cross-licensing arrangement.

Patents can also demonstrate the expertise of the people employed by the company. Investors and business partners may view a patent portfolio as an asset to show lenders or potential business partners, draw interest from outside investors, and increase the market value of the company.

How to Get a Patent

The first step towards getting a patent for a novel or brand new idea is to search the United States Patent and Trademark Office's patent database to find similar ideas that have already been patented. In the event the search comes up with similar inventions, but the new invention adds something that the originals do not have, it's time to turn to an expert in patents for help. 

An expert can be a patent attorney or patent agent. Patent lawyers typically have a technical or science degree and have met the patent office's qualifications. The attorney is capable of searching the database and determining if the new idea is unique enough for its own patent or is too similar to existing inventions to gain a patent. In the event the invention is patentable, the lawyer begins the application process to get the idea patented.

If you need help with getting a patent, 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