What is a Patent?

Understanding patents, including intellectual property patents, can be very difficult as they are somewhat more complicated than trademarks and copyrights. If you've ever read a book, you've likely seen a copyright notice, and consumer products that you use on a daily basis will often include a trademark. If you own a business, you might even have your own brand.

One of the reasons patents are so hard to understand is that they cover non-obvious inventions, such as the equipment needed to manufacture goods or the technology in your computer that lets you read an electronic book. Patent protection requires registering with the United States government. Also, successfully filing a patent application usually means hiring an experienced lawyer. Because the process of patent registration is so complicated, many inventors forego the process entirely.

A patent gives you exclusive ownership of an invention. An invention is usually a process that allows people to do something a new way, or provides a new solution to a previously existing problem.

The inventions protected by patents are a form of intellectual property that have the following characteristics:

  • They are new.
  • They are useful.
  • They are non-obvious.

You are required to reveal technical information about your invention before your patent will be granted. When you are granted a patent, you have a right to protect your invention from commercial exploitation by another person or business. This means that another business cannot produce, distribute, use, or sell your invention without your express permission. Generally, patents are only applicable in the country where they are granted, making them territorial rights. Patents are only binding for a limited amount of time. Typically, a patent will last for twenty years after it has been filed.

Patent Law and Treaties

The framework for patents between nations is based on treaties that are administered by the WIPO.

The first major international agreement related to property rights of industries is known as the Paris Convention. This agreement included rules for patents, and also covered the right of property and how countries would treat this property.

A system for filing patents internationally was established by the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This treaty allows inventors to protect their inventions in several countries at once.

There is an international system for classifying inventions known as the Strasbourg Agreement Concerning the International Patent Classification. This system is updated regularly, and allows for easy patent information searches.

Procedural formalities and maximum requirements for regional and national patent applications were established in the Patent Law Treaty. Disclosure of inventions related to biotechnology is mandated by the Budapest Treaty.

Patent Filing

Thanks to the PCT, you can file a single international patent application and receive the same protection as if you had filed multiple patents in individual countries. You can exchange priority documents securely by using the WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS). With the Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) system, patent offices in different countries can more effectively examine patents by securely sharing documentation.

Patent Search and Analysis

The PATENTSCOPE system allows people to search more than 43 million patent documents. This system includes international patents. Patents and utility models are classified using the International Patent Classification (IPC) system. Technologies in a specific area are described using Patent Landscape Reports.

Patents, Technology and Development

The patent system was designed to promote innovation by allowing inventors to protect their hard-earned research. Information and technology can be transferred using the patent system. Inventors in developing countries, as well as small businesses, can find affordable attorneys for help with patent protection by participating in the Inventor Assistance Program.

In developing countries, inventors can also access technology information and services that they need for their projects thanks to the Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) program.

What is Intellectual Property?

Anything that you create using your mind is considered intellectual property (IP). Common forms of IP include images used for commerce, literature, artistic works, and designs.

You can secure your intellectual property with several types of legal protections, including patents and copyrights. These protections can help you earn money or recognition from your invention, and are meant to promote both the interest of creators and the public.

If you need help with applying for intellectual property patents, you can post your legal needs 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.