Frequently Asked Questions: Patents Basics
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. In other words, a patent is an exclusive right to a product or a process that generally provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.
A patent owner has the right to decide who may – or may not – use the patented invention for the period in which the invention is protected. In other words, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported, or sold by others without the patent owner’s consent.
Patents may be granted for inventions in any field of technology. An invention can be a product – such as a chemical compound, or a process, for example – or a process for producing a specific chemical compound. Many products in fact contain a number of inventions. For example, a laptop computer can involve hundreds of inventions, working together.
Patent protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.
The costs vary considerably from country to country (and even within a country). As the official fees vary widely from country to country, please contact the relevant national or regional patent office which will be able to give you details on the fee structure.
In some countries, patent protection may be extended beyond 20 years or a Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) may be issued in very specific cases. The extension aims to compensate for the time expended on the administrative approval procedure before products can be put on the market.
While it is certainly true that not all enterprises develop patentable inventions, it is a wrong to believe that patents only apply to complex physical or chemical processes and products or that they are only useful to large corporations.