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What is a Patent?
A patent is an agreement between a Government and an inventor where the inventor agrees to publish the invention for the world to see (and thereby stimulate research and development) in return for a time-limited monopoly on the invention. Generally the term of the monopoly is 20 years, but this can be extended in the case of certain pharmaceutical and veterinary products. In most countries in the world a patent application is published 18 after filing.
Can you get a Patent for anything?
No, depending on the country where you are trying to obtain a patent, there are certain criteria to be met before you will be granted a patent. In most countries, your invention will have to be found to be novel (new), inventive (non-obvious), as well as being found to have a use (utility). Further, in most European States a patent may not be obtained for certain subject matter, such as computer programs, business methods, and plant varieties.
Is there such a thing as a worldwide patent?
No, patents are national rights. There is however a worldwide International patent application (also known as a PCT Patent Application) which covers most of the worlds developed countries and which allows the applicant defer filing national patent applications for up to one and a half years. Further, there is a European Patent system which provides for the central filing, examination and grant of one patent covering all European States. However, upon grant the European Patent becomes a bundle of national patents.
Who owns my invention?
Generally speaking, an invention belongs to the person or persons who invent it. However, if you work for a company and are employed to conduct research and development in a particular field, then it is likely that any inventions you make during the term of your employment in that field will belong to your employer. Likewise, if you are a contract researcher, or a faculty member, in a University or publicly-funded research organisation, and an invention arises out of your research at the University, then it is likely that the University will have a beneficial right to any such inventions.
Is patenting a rubber-stamping procedure?
No, in most countries it is quite an exhaustive process involving filing of the application, issuing of a search report by the Patent Office, publication of the Application 18 months after filing, examination of the Application, and finally grant. This process generally takes between 3 and 5 years, depending on the country. However, in Ireland and certain other countries it is possible to obtain a patent without a substantive examination process. These patents are known as Short Term Patents, Utility Models, or Innovation Patents, and they generally have a lower requirement for inventive step, as well as having a shorter term of protection.
What should I do if I think I have a useful invention?
First, it is essential that you keep the details of the invention confidential, as any public disclosure of the invention prior to filing a patent application is likely to prejudice your chances of obtaining a valid patent in most countries in the world (the United States being one notable exception).
Secondly, speak to one of our attorneys who will advise you on the best way to protect your invention. PURDYLUCEY provides a free initial consultation for prospective new clients.
What information do I need to provide to my patent attorney?
In order to advise you properly, we will need a description of your technology in sufficient detail to enable the invention to be understood. It is also useful to provide any data supporting the invention, and figures or drawings required to understand the invention.
How can I carry out a patent search?
There are a number of freely available patent search engines on the internet. Two of the most popular search engines are the patent search engine of the US Patent and Trade Mark Office, and the ESPACE searching facility. Links to these search engines and other search sites can be found in IP Searching.