A Brief Introduction to Patent Law
When an individual invents something, there is an inherent risk that their invention will be copied by others. If it is copied, the rewards (financial or otherwise) for having invented the item may be fancied by someone other than the inventor. Before the introduction of patents, this risk was prevalent, and inventors were often discouraged from their pursuits. To reassure inventors that their ideas would be safe from those who would steal them, the government set patent laws that protected inventors’ rights. In this article, we’ll explain what a patent is, how they work and what an inventor can do in the event his patent is broken.
What Is A Patent?
A patent is a legal document that protects an invention from being used, copied, or produced by anyone other than the inventor (unless express consent is given by the inventor). This security lasts for a predetermined period. Once a patent expires, the invention loses its protection. There are three main types of patents: utility, design and plant patents. Utility patents protect inventions that involve machines, processes and biological or chemical compositions of matter. Design patents cover the aesthetic or ornamental design of articles of manufacture. Plant patents grant rights to anyone who has discovered (or created) a new facility using asexual reproduction.
The most common type of patent applied for and granted is the utility patent. If granted, they offer protection for 20 years (beginning from the application date). Design and plant patents are far less common. Design patents allow protection for the age of 14 while plant patents offer protection for 20 years.
The only person who is legally allowed to apply for a patent is the inventor. Even if the invention was created under the employ of someone else, only the designer could use. Once the patent is granted to the inventor, the rights can be transferred to the employer.
Recourse If A Patent Is Violated
If a patent is broken, it’s the responsibility of the person or entity who holds the patent to pursue enforcement or appeal, usually by contacting a reputable IP Firm. This can become a complicated and expensive procedure. It’s not uncommon for large corporations that have violated a patent to continue the matter in court. This is particularly the case when a portion of their revenue is derived as a result of their patent violation. Because litigation can be cost prohibitive for many inventors, it may be worthwhile to consider selling the patent or arranging some form of licensing agreement with the company who is infringing upon the copyright holder’s rights.
Patents have been known to be a source of empirical data to understand and analyze inventive activity/innovation, trends and specifies in the technology of development, R&D processes, technological change and innovation and investment patterns.
Patent law was enacted to protect inventors’ rights and to encourage the continued innovation of processes, methods, and manufactured items. That being said, it is a complicated field of law. You should speak with a patent lawyer before petitioning for a patent. If you hold a patent that another party has violated, an experienced attorney can prove valuable in exploring your options.