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What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right. It is granted to an inventor when a patent application has been filed by the inventor. A patent right is an exploitation right that enables the inventor economically exploit his invention thus providing a means of earning the prior investments done. Patent applications descibe the invention in detail in so called claims.



After s secrecy period of 18 months the publication of a patent application is enforced by law to compensate society for the exclusive exploitation right granted. The exclusive patent right thus comes with a commitment to the inventor to share its knowledge.

when can a patent right be obtained?

Any invention that

  • is novel
  • involves an inventive step, and
  • is susceptible of industrial production
can be subject of a patent application.

Novel and unique products are patentable. The same applies to novel or unique improvements to existing products. They too can be successfully protected by a patent right. The concepts novelty and inventive step are broadly interpreted. Inventive production processes could fit into the definition of patentability as well. The concepts novelty and inventive step are broadly interpreted thus including inventive production processes into the definition of patentability.

what is excluded from patenting?

  • ideas
  • thoughts
  • theories
  • treatment of human bodies
  • treatment of animal bodies
  • software in Europe
cannot be subject of a patent application.

Thoughts or ideas are not patentable. Theories nor services can be patented either. And when bodies, i.e. human or animal, are subject of some sort of treatment, the treatment itself can not be protected by a patent.

In Europe 'computer software' is not patentable yet. Discussions on its patentability are still going on but for the time being, software can not be patented separately. When software is inextricably bound to a product applying for a patent can be successful though.

Cost and annual fees

For an indication of the annual fees applicable choose a country from the list and collect the data from the databse. Data is presented in both a table and a graph. Most countries grant patent rights for a maximum of 20 years. When the maximum period is extended to 25 years it is mentioned in the remarks table.



country listing



patents as information source

Patent applications contain concise but nevertheless detailed descriptions of the invention to be protected. All patent applications are furthermore described by keywords thus pinpointing the essence of patent documents. By searching patent applications belonging to the same area of interest it is possible to gain indepth knowledge of the technology described. Statistical analysis of the search results may prove very useful in discovering certain key technologies.

All patent applications show the name(s) of the inventor(s) or the applicant(s). Research of patent applications therefore is very useful to get an insight in to the research activities of competitors.

When the number of patent applications in certain technological fields is gradually increasing an emerging technology might be discovered. Very useful to know when active in the same or an adjacent field of technology.

Patent applications can be searched freely by anyone. One does not have to be a patent right owner to get access to the many million patent applications in public patent databases. It is a very sensible thing to do to search patent applications when setting up an innovation project. Inventing the wheel again is a waste of time and money.

Give it a try and have a look at Espacenet or the United States Patent Office databases.

Intellectual Property Rights

Other intellectual property rights are protected by laws on copy right, designs, plant varieties, topographies of semi-conductors, trademarks and the like.

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