MAIN Home Legal Guide Intellectual Property Law Inventions & Patents
Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mousetrap patent, 1920
When inventors invent something, they usually want to protect their unique idea from being
copied and reused without their permission, and so to protect
their invention they obtain a patent.
The exact rules and regulations of patents differ from country
to country, although there are some international agreements
that attempt to regularize the patent process. In some countries,
for instance, intellectual property such as business models
cannot be patented, while in other countries they can be.
How to obtain a patent
speaking, the granting of a patent must fulfill three criteria.
invention must be new.
invention must be inventive, or what is called "non-obvious"
in the United States.
lastly, the invention must be useful or applicable in some
invention idea meets all these standards, it will generally receive
a patent and all the legal protection that a patent provides.
In the US, this generally entails the submission of drawings
by the inventor that must show every feature of the invention;
as well as a declaration, or "inventors oath" swearing
them to be the original and first inventor of the subject
matter of the patent application.
In most countries, the legal protection that a patent provides
will last for 20 years, whereupon the invention becomes part
of the public domain. A patent is in many ways treated legally
like a piece of property. Patents can be bought and sold. They can also be mortgaged, licensed, or given away.
If a person or company infringes on a patent in some way,
the patent holder can take the perpetrator to court and
often win a monetary settlement based on how grievous the
infringement was. It is in this way that patents are typically
enforced by the courts.
Patent law controversies
Patent law is certainly necessary, but in some cases also
has its share of criticism. Many people point out, for instance,
that pharmaceutical patents allow drug companies
to block the production of generic drugs and keep drug prices
artificially high, preventing the people who most need
those drugs from getting them.
In some particularly desperate third world countries for instance,
patent laws have been ignored entirely and some drugs, like
HIV treatments, are produced illegally. This of course violates
patent laws, but raises some interesting questions, such as which
kinds of inventions should be granted patents? What moral obligations do big corporations have if they put patent protection before the lives of the sick and poor?
More about inventions & patent law around the Web:
Just up ahead, learn more about patents at top sites offering insider tips on patent searches, how and where to complete applications online, typical submission costs, as well as broad overviews of patent law, invention history, and fun facts ....
States Patent and Trademark Office - The official site offering how-to guides for filing inventions,
copyrights and trademarks, facts and information on patent
law, related searchable databases, resources & glossary.
Intellectual Property Organization - International
clearinghouse of facts and information on copyright law,
trademarks, and industrial design, with a searchable database
of international patents, related glossary, Webcasts.
- Invention to Patent 101 - An extensive online
course with facts, information and guides to developing an
invention idea, the do's and don'ts of patent applications, how
to perform a patent search, detailed discussions on submission
drawings, typical costs, and related case studies.
Inventors - About.com guide with complete information for beginners
on inventions and patent law, sample forms and non-disclosure
contracts, invention history and fun facts, timelines.
The Great Idea Finder - Learn more about the history of inventions including the famous, not-so-famous, and forgotten inventions throughout history, with top Web resources leading to related biographies, fun facts, and invention trivia.
The information provided on these pages is intended as reference
only and does not constitute professional legal advice.