Understanding patents and their importance to growing businesses

Understanding patents and their importance to growing businesses

December 28, 2020 By Dinesh Parmar

Creations of the mind, i.e. intellectual property, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images that can be used commercially, can be protected under the Intellectual Property Law.

Specifically, any products and processes (i.e. methods) that solve a problem in a new, non-obvious and technical way can be patented. Patents cannot be obtained for mere ideas or suggestions, but only if the inventors have figured out concrete means of implementing their ideas.

Some patentable inventions, among many others, include:

  • Computer software and hardware
  • Electricals & Electronics device
  • Genetically engineered bacteria, plants, and animals
  • Chemical formulations and processes
  • Pharmaceutical drugs and medical products
  • Musical instruments
  • Machinery and Mechanical equipments
  • Biogenetic materials
  • Biological inventions.

Patents allow the original creators of inventions to prevent others from using their inventions for commercial purposes and gives them exclusive rights to decide who can produce, sell or import their inventions, for a limited time period. It also gives them sole ownership over selling or licensing their innovations for a fee.

Additionally, patents are important for businesses because they help

  • prevent competitors from exploiting inventions,
  • put original inventors in a stronger position with other companies who have patents in areas of similar interests,
  • build a more trustworthy and impressive base for new customers,
  • give competitors a clear ‘keep off the grass’ warning, reducing infringement issues,
  • force competitors to design around existing inventions which can cost them time and money.

In return for the exclusive rights of use of an invention, the inventor must divulge its basic technical concepts. It is mandatory to disclose enough information about the invention that any person, other than the inventor, skilled in the art should be able to work the invention. This helps experts understand how the invention works and develop the technology further. This way, both patent owners and society can benefit from it.

There are two main types of patents available in India:

Product patents:

The grant for product patents implies that no other person excluding the inventor can manufacture the same product using the same process or any other process. It offers protection to the original inventor to reduce the competition for the same product.

Process patents:

The grant of a process patent implies that no other person excluding the inventor can manufacture products using the processes mentioned.  This, however, only protects particular processes and not the end products that are a result of such processes.

Some important things to know about registering patents include:

Patent search:

Before applying for a patent, it is recommended to make a preliminary patent search to determine whether it is feasible to proceed with the application.

To confirm whether an invention is already patented, applicants can perform preliminary searches on Patent Office journals periodically published on their website or make a request for this information under section 153 of the Act.

Patent drafting:

Patent specifications generally comprise of the title of the invention indicating its technical field, prior art works, drawbacks in prior artworks, solutions provided by the inventor to obviate the drawbacks of the prior artwork, a concise but sufficient description of the invention and its usefulness, drawings (if any) and details of the best method of its working. The specification must contain at least one statement of claim defining the scope of the invention for which protection is sought.

Patent specifications can be prepared by applicants themselves or by their registered and authorized Patent Attorney or Registered Patent Agentintellectual property lawyers. Failure to draft accurate patent specifications can severely impact the application and its approval; which is why it is recommended to request legal assistance from intellectual property law firms

Patent specifications can be prepared by applicants themselves or by their registered and authorized patent attorney or registered patent agent. Failure to draft accurate patent specifications can severely impact the application and its approval which is why it is recommended to request legal assistance from a patent law firm.

Patent protection:

(i) Before patents are granted:

The terms ‘Patent Pending’ and ‘Patent Applied For’ inform the public that an application for a patent has been filed. Patent protection starts from the date of patent filing application, however in case of patent Infringement, the legal action can be taken after the actual grant of a patent. Marking articles as patented, when they aren’t, is illegal and subject to penalty.

(ii) After patents are granted:

After the grant of a patent, patentees are required to maintain the patent by paying annual renewal fees as prescribed in the schedule I. For the first two years, there is no renewal fee, becoming payable 3rd year onwards. In case of non payment of renewal fees, patents can be ceased. A request for restoration of patent rights can be filed within 18 months from the date of cessation of patent along with the prescribed fee.

Patent infringement:

In case an inventor finds someone using their patented inventions without permission, they can file a lawsuit against the infringer. If the court agrees, the patent holder may be awarded costs, attorney's fees, damages in an amount equal to a reasonable royalty, and an injunction (an order prohibiting another person from infringing the patent). An action for infringement can be time-consuming and costly, so infringement cases are often settled.

Patent validity & expiry:

Patent rights are generally granted for 20 years from the date of application. Once a patent expires, the invention becomes the common property and can then be freely used by anyone without the original owner’s authority. Investors may or may not choose to renew their patents based on the growth prospects for it. It is just as important to maintain patents, as important getting one. For this, inventors should understand the term lengths of their patents, which can differ based on the type of invention and the laws in those countries.

When holding inventions that need to be protected and leveraged, it is a good idea to get acquainted with patent law and related intellectual property law in general.

It is important to understand that a patent is a business asset and not a guarantee of riches.

Many inventors operate under the misunderstanding that patents will instantly translate into monetary gains. When seeking a patent, it is extremely crucial to create a game plan about how much time, efforts and money to invest in it, when to obtain it and how to utilize it for maximum benefits.

Nonetheless, patents are extremely helpful in protecting innovative ideas, products, processes and designs that can be leveraged to obtain recognition or revenue.

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