(These are not definitions, but helpful pointers)
- What is a patent?
A patent is an exclusive right for a limited time for an invention.
- What are the exclusive rights for?
The rights are excluding others from making, using, selling, offering for selling and importing the invention.
- For how long is a patent valid?
20 years from the application filing date.
- What is an invention?
An invention is a novel and non-obvious useful tangible solution to a problem. Notable exceptions are design patents that cover external appearance of objects.
- What is novel?
In simple terms anything that is new, man-made, and does not exist previously and has not been disclosed before.
- What is non-obvious?
In simple terms anything that is not an incremental improvement (i.e. obvious improvement) over previously known product or process.
- Can I patent anything and everything that meet the criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness?
No, you cannot. There are country-specific rules on what is and what is not patentable.
- Can I patent, if I publish?
In the US, you may, within one year of publishing and obtain rights in the US. In all other countries you loose your rights if you publish before submit a patent application.
- Can I patent, if I disclose?
In the US, you may, within one year of disclosing your invention. In all other countries you loose your rights, if you disclose your invention before submitting a patent application.
- What kinds of disclosures affect the prospects of patenting?
In general, any public disclosure as opposed to disclosure within a confidential meeting (for example lab meeting) or disclosures protected by non-disclosure agreements.
- Do I have to file a patent to practice my invention?
No. You are not required to file a patent to practice your invention. But without patent protection, you risk your invention being copied by others.
- Can a person or entity that has already obtained a patent on the same invention, stop me from practicing the invention?
Yes. A patent gives the owner of the patent, exclusive constitutionally bestowed rights to stop others from practicing the invention described in the patent. This falls under patent infringement.
- I have an idea that could be patentable, what should I do first?
The first question to ask is, who owns the idea. An easy way to answer this question is to ask yourself, what are your obligations to your employer.
- I work in a lab and my idea is related to the project I work on for my employer. Do I own the rights to the idea?
In general, no. Your employer owns the right to the idea. Contact your technology transfer office/center. They will guide you.
- I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. But I used materials and equipment in the lab for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?
- I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. Also, I did not use materials or equipment from my employer and instead used my own funds for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?
- My employer decided not to pursue my invention. Is this a dead end for my invention?
No. They could give you the ownership rights for the invention for free or a cost. They could also license for free or a cost. Where federal funding is involved, even the federal government can give you the rights for free or a fee.
- What are the things to remember when deciding whether to patent an invention or not on my own?
Two things to contemplate are money and time. Obtaining a patent costs money in terms of filing fees, maintenance fees, and attorney fees. It is up to the inventor to evaluate the cost benefit of filing and maintaining a patent.
- I am good at generating ideas but not good at perfecting them. Can I file a patent application for an imperfect idea?
In fact yes, if the idea is not completely abstract and can be described adequately to convincingly prove that it can work as described.
- I am good at generating and testing ideas and even perfecting them. But I do not have the experience or inclination to manufacture or market my invention. Is this worthwhile to pursue a patent application?
Yes. Patents can be sold or licensed to others who are interested buyers. They are a form of intellectual property.
Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.