Patent comprises exclusive rights of an inventor or assignee as granted by a sovereign state. These rights come with expiration and require public disclosure of an invention. Patents are also considered form of intellectual property.
Patents and their extent are granted based on national laws and international agreements. However, when applying for patent, the application should include one or multiple claims for an invention. Related claims should meet patentability requirements, including novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness. After granting of a patent, the patentee gain the exclusive rights for commercial production, use, selling, import, and distribution of an invention.
The World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights provide its members access to inventions in various technological fields.
The word “patent” is actually the shortened version of “letters patent,” which was a royal decree that allowed granting of exclusive rights to an individual even before the modern patent system was developed. Other older versions of patent included land patents and printing patents.
In this modern era, patent pertains to the rights granted to people who presents new inventions in various fields. These patents can be categorized based on their related industries. Thus, there are design patents, plant patents, petty patents or innovation patents, biological patents, business method patents, chemical patents, and software patents.
The history of patents can be traced back to Ancient Greece in Sybaris. In this Greek city, the Venetian Patent Statute of 1450 can be regarded as the first statutory patent system. Patents were for new inventions were given in Venice, and these innovations were communicated to the Republic for the purpose of legal protection. Venetians were also required to seek patents whenever they relocated.
Throughout the years, the English patent system underwent innovations and included recognition of intellectual property. However, the system was abused by individuals who wanted to monopolize it. However, after being criticized by the public, King James I of England took action and revoke monopolies on patent to give way to new inventions.
In the 18th century, a number of developments were made concerning patent laws. Under the leadership of Queen Anne, patent applications necessitated provision of specific principles of operation for inventions; these specifications were made public. James Watt also fought legal battles regarding patents for improvement of existing machines and patents for principles without specific practical applications.
Meanwhile, other countries, including the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, used the English legal system as basis for formulating their own patent laws.
On the other hand, the French patent system saw light in 1791 during the revolution. Patent costs were initially steep but gradually declined in 1844 after revisions in the patent law.
Patent provides a person to exclude others from manufacturing, selling, or importing patented products during the term of the patent. Granting of patent provides inventors with limited property. In exchange, they are required to make important information on their invention available to the public.
However, there are still limitations regarding what a person can do with a patented invention, as it is possible to make improvements that are covered by other patents.
Meanwhile, third parties may challenge the validity of a patent, leading to opposition proceeding. Thus, it is possible to take away a patent that has already been granted. Challenges on granted patents may be based on the following: claimed subject matter is not patentable; claimed subject matter is not really new; a fraud was committed.
On the other hand, patent infringement results when a third party utilizes an invention for production or marketing purposes without granted patent. In some countries, patent owner may seek for monetary compensation in case of patent infringement. Meanwhile, the accused infringer may file for a countersuit to prove the invalidity of a certain patent.
In various countries, patents may be granted to individuals or corporations. However, in the US, patents can also only be granted to inventors though patents may be assigned later on to companies. In European countries, ownership of invention may be transferred from inventor to employee depending on special circumstances.
In case of multiple inventors, issues may arise when one of the proprietors assign their rights in the patent to another individual. Some countries allow such practice though in other nations consent of all concerned proprietors must be granted first.
Patents are granted and enforced by national laws and international treaties. However, a patent given in specific country may not be honored in another. Patents can be obtained from designated patent offices.
Depending on the country, various patent laws are implemented. For instance, Patents Act 1977 covers the substantive patent law, whereas the United States Patent and Trademark Office was created in the US.
At present, most nations are gearing toward global harmonization of patent laws. The TRIPs Agreement aimed at making nations conform to specific sets of laws. This conformation is necessary for admission to the World Trade Organization.
Other international treaty procedures include those implemented by European Patent Convention, ARIPO and OAPI, and Eurasian Patent Organization. Meanwhile, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which was initially signed in 1883, provides a set of basic rules for patents; the principles of the conventions are normally integrated with other patent systems. On the other hand, the Patent Cooperation Treaty is known for providing unified procedure for filing of patent applications; this convention aims at protecting inventions in each contracting states.
The procedure for obtaining a patent starts with filing of application to patent offices. The application should include detailed description regarding the proper production and use of an invention. The application should also mention other claims to enable visualization of coverage of the patent. After the patent is granted, renewal fees must be paid to retain is enforcement. Fees may be paid on a yearly basis.