What is a Patent?
A patent is a legal document that is granted to an inventor by the patent office in order to protect the subject matter seeking protection. Simply put, a patent is an exclusive right conferred by the Government on an inventor, to prevent others exploiting the patent without his permission. Essentially, a patent is granted for an invention.
However, a patent will be granted only if it satisfies the conditions of patentability. These conditions of patentability are universal with slight differences in their way of interpretation.
Novelty: In order to obtain a patent for an invention, the inventor is required to make sure that the invention consists of one or more elements that are new, failing which, the invention will not qualify for patenting.
Non-obviousness: Along with novelty, the invention is required to be non-obvious. As in, any person possessing skills in the particular field of invention must not find the invention to be easy and obvious.
Industrial Application: Process/embodiments of an invention must have a commercial market failing which they will be termed as utility models. If the novel and non-obvious invention has some industrial application, the invention qualifies to be patented and thereby satisfies the conditions of patentability.
It is important to remember that patent protection is available for any product, process or design for a limited period of 20 years after which the global audience can use the invention without permission and infringement of the patent. This is called the system of Quid Pro Quo and is fundamental to the patent system.
A patent provides a right to inventor(s) to exclude others from exploiting the patented invention. Therefore, other than inventor can not use, make or sell the patented invention without permission from the inventor. This is often referred to as the exclusive right of the invention. The inventor can capitalize on this exclusive right and make his patent commercially viable.
Let us now consider the factors that provide an understanding as to why patents are so important.
Exclusive Rights: As mentioned earlier, patents provide exclusive rights which allow the inventor to exclude others from using the invention. Particularly, for 20 years from the date of filing the patent application.
Strong Market Position: Since the inventor has obtained the exclusive right to the invention, the inventor can exercise this right by preventing others from commercially using the patented invention thereby reducing the competition and thus establishing a place in the commercial market.
Higher Returns on Investments: Having invested a considerable amount of time and money in developing the invention, under the umbrella of exclusive rights, the inventor could bring in the invention to the commercial market and thus obtain higher returns on the investment. Of course, this depends on the economic utility of the patent. For this reason, the inventor must ensure the commercial viability of the patent before investing on patent.
Opportunity to License or Sell the Invention: Sometimes, the inventor might not want to exploit the invention himself. In such cases, the inventor can sell or license the rights to commercialize it to another enterprise. This would result to bring royalty and revenue to the inventor.
Positive Image for the Enterprise: Business partners, investors and shareholders may perceive the patent portfolios as a demonstration. Particularly, the high level of expertise that is provided by the subject matter experts. This acts as a spectacle of the organization’s capability. Further, this may prove useful for raising funds, finding business partners and also increase the company’s market value.
Considering the above “patent meaning” and importance, one can obtain a sneak-peak into the challenging but yet fascinating patent world.