The value of a company in its early days can be largely attributed to its intellectual property which is why it is important to protect it. A patent is a legal document which gives the owner of an invention exclusive rights for a certain period of time in exchange for disclosing the invention to the public. Applying for a patent can be a lengthy and complex process as it can take years until a patent is granted. This article answers faqs and explains the patent process an inventor will need to follow in order to navigate patent law and obtain a patent.
What is a patent?
A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted to an inventor which protect the inventor's right to use, sell, or distribute an invention for a certain period of time in exchange for disclosing the invention to the public.
What can be patented?
Patents are granted per jurisdiction and each jurisdiction might have specific requirements for what can or can't be patented. However, an invention can usually be patented if it is novel, technical and not obvious to a skilled person of the invention's domain. You can seek professional advice from a patent attorney if you require support in the patent application process.
What can't be patented?
Business methods are not technical and therefore generally can't be patented. Software at an abstract level is not usually patentable but practical applications of software are likely be patentable. Inventions which are already in the public domain can't be patented which is why it is important to keep them secret or confidential thanks to non-disclosure agreements prior filing a patent application. Information in the patent application may be disclosed once a provisional patent application has been filed.
What are the benefits of a patent?
Entrepreneurs and startups can obtain IP protection with patents which can be useful from preventing competitors or large corporation from copying their new products because patent holders can take legal action against companies for patent infringement. This patent protection can also make a startup appeal to potential acquirers who wish to obtain the intellectual property rights of the patent for their own purposes.
What is the patent application process?
In order to patent an invention, an inventor must first provide a description of the invention. The description should both include drawings and descriptions of the drawings. Once the invention has been described, the inventor needs to present the set of claims they are patenting for their invention. A patent examiner will review, accept or deny these claims which is why patent attorneys can help you design a strategic set of claims to increase the likelihood of acceptance.
After drafting the patent, it can be filed as a provisional patent application with the patent office of the jurisdiction you are seeking protection from (e.g. European patent office, UK intellectual property office, United States patent and trademark office). The patent office will then appoint an examiner who will be responsible for conducting a patent search report of existing patents and prior art before determining if any of the claims are patentable. If the review is positive then the patent office will grant the patent and the exclusive rights will be dated from the filing date. Until the patent is granted, the application will have a patent pending status which grants some protection to the inventor.
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How much does it cost to get a patent?
The cost of a patent application is split between the filing fees and patent attorney fees if you work with one. Whilst it is not obligatory to work with a patent attorney, they can increase the likelihood of a successful application. Inventors are also required to pay renewal fees for granted patents.
How long does it take to obtain a patent?
A granted patent can take several years to obtain but certain patent offices like the USPTO offer accelerated reviews in exchange for a fee. Moreover, after obtaining a U.S. patent, a patent holder can convert their patent into international patents via the international patent cooperation treaty.
How to use contracts to protect your invention
Only Inventions which are not in the public domain can be patented and patents can only be granted to inventors who own the intellectual property rights of the invention. For these reasons, legal documents such as contracts play an essential role in the success of patent applications. Employment contracts must contain the right clauses to assign the employee's inventions and intellectual property rights to the Employer and NDAs are essential for preventing the public disclosure of inventions. To protect your business and future inventions with robust legal documents on no legal budget, sign up to Legislate.
Legislate is a contracting platform where business owners can create contracts to help grow and develop their business. Legislate's employment offer letters and contracts are key in protecting your IP and Legislate's NDAs are crucial to ensure you can have conversations and partnerships to help develop your business and brand. Book a demo or sign up today to put the confidence back into contracting.
The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.