A patent is a right granted to the owner of an invention that prevents others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without his permission.
A patentable invention can be a product or a process that gives a new technical solution to a problem. It can also be a new method of doing things, the composition of a new product, or a technical improvement on how certain objects work.
Once it is granted, its term of a patent is 20 years from the Date of Filing, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees.
The benefits of registering a patent
Once you register a patent, apart from using the patent to prevent others from exploiting your invention, you can employ it to raise funds for your business, license it to third parties for commercial returns or sell the patented invention.
For an invention to be patentable, it must, in general, satisfy three key criteria:
1. New – The invention should not be publicly known in any way, anywhere in the world.
Owners of inventions should be careful to keep the invention secret until a patent application has been successfully made. If the idea has already been talked about, commercially exploited, advertised or demonstrated, then the novelty of the invention may be compromised.
If the invention needs to be disclosed to a third party before a patent application has been made, a non-disclosure agreement should be drawn up.
Once a Date of Filing has been obtained for the patent application, the invention can claim a "Patent Pending" status and the applicant can proceed to disclose the invention as indicated in the patent application to interested parties. As part of the application process, the patent application will be published after 18 months and if the statutory requirements are met. Once published, details of the invention will be made available for public inspection.
2. Inventive step – The invention must be something that represents an improvement over any existing product or process that is already available.
The improvement must not be obvious to someone with technical skills or knowledge in the invention’s particular field. If an invention is new yet obvious to a person skilled in the art, the invention would not fulfil the inventive step requirement.
3. Industrial application – The invention must be useful and have some form of practical application. It should be capable of being made or used in some form of industry.
The following is not a patentable invention: