A patent gives an inventor the right for a limited period to stop others from making, using or selling an invention without the permission of the inventor.
A patent is an intellectual property right, granted to an inventor by a country’s government as a territorial right usually for twenty years. It makes it illegal for anyone except the owner or someone with the owner’s permission to make, use, import or sell the invention in the country where the patent was granted. Patent owners can enjoy exclusive rights to their inventions enabling them to strike licensing deals or keep rivals at bay while they establish their brand.
Patents protect new inventions and cover how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. It gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission.
- An invention must be novel
- Inventions must be kept confidential to be patentable
- Inventions must be capable of industrial application
- Granting a patent application can take several years
- Patents can be renewed for a maximum of 20 years.
Using other people's inventions
If an institution wants to use other people’s patents, it will usually need permission, and this is typically done by approaching the owner to agree a licence with them, or, in some cases, by purchasing the patent from them.
If you use others’ patented inventions without permission, you are infringing the patent and the owner can take legal action against you and claim damages.
Inventions relating to computer software may be patentable, but only if they involve something more than just software running on a computer in a technically ordinary way. Whether a computer-implemented invention is patentable depends on the contribution the invention makes.
For example, if it provides improved control of a car braking system, it is likely to be patentable, but if it merely provides an improved accounting system, it is probably not patentable because this is a non-technical purpose.