An invention is worth patenting
A patent is an exclusive right that allows you to prevent others from utilizing your invention commercially, for example by manufacturing, selling, importing or using it. This right is valid only in the countries in which the patent is in force. A patent is a concrete asset, and it gives a promotional value for your product that often has a positive impact on sales. It is worth remembering that a patent is the only way to ensure that no one else can claim exclusive rights to the same invention. Patents also strengthen your corporate image, since companies that invest in product development are seen as the most innovative in their field.
A patentable invention must be new
The novelty requirement for patents means that the invention must not be disclosed in any way prior to filing a patent application with the appropriate patent office(s), or before another strategic decision has been made for the invention. Moreover, the invention to be patented must differ significantly from previously known solutions, and it must be industrially usable. It is possible to patent products, processes or a way of using them.
A patent only protects what is included in the patent application, so any features that result from further product development must be patented separately – and must not be disclosed prior to protecting them!
A patent does not automatically give you the right to use an invention
A granted patent does not always mean that the patent holder can utilize their invention. For example, the commercial use of an invention may be limited by a prior patent that is still in force, and on which your patent depends. In this situation, gaining permission to use the invention will require further negotiations. Furthermore, inventions in areas such as chemicals or pharmaceuticals may require regulatory approval before use.
There is no such thing as a worldwide patent
Under the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the novelty and patentability of inventions is evaluated by designated international authorities by filing a PCT patent application (also known as an “international patent application”). However, such a application does not automatically lead to a patent. After the evaluation phase, or 30 months after the priority date, the patent application can continued in national or regional phases, or both. The application may then result in a patent in each country it enters. This procedure allows the costliest patenting decisions to be deferred to a time when there is a better overview of the patentability or business value of the invention. As a result, “patent numbers” beginning with WO are always application numbers.
To protect or to keep secret?
It is one option to keep the invention secret, but it is risky. Specifically, if your competitor invents the same solution and you have not patented it, they are free to use it. There is also nothing to stop your competitor from patenting the invention, which – due to not being disclosed –can presumably be considered as new.
The patent term, or the time during which a patent can protect your invention, is typically 20 years from the date of filing. Keeping a patent in force requires that annuity fees are paid every year.
SPC: Extended protection for pharmaceuticals and plant protection products
An additional Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) enables the patent term for pharmaceuticals and plant protection products to be extended even after the base patent has expired. The purpose of the SPC is to redeem the extra time that has been required to gain regulatory approval for sale of the product, up to a maximum of five years.