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What is a Patent? How can you get one?

If you’ve ever read up stories or scientific articles about the famous inventors of the years gone by like Thomas Edison, Karl Benz, and even Leonardo Da Vinci, you would have come across the word patent frequently. 

A patent is an intellectual right granted to an inventor by the federal government, which allows the inventors to either authorise or prevent others from using their invention for commercial purposes for up to 20 years. This means you are in full control and have authority over who sells, trades, or imports your invention, in the countries that you own a patent.

Difference between a Patent and Trademark

Patents protect your invention so that others cannot use or sell it. A trademark, on the other hand, protect the logos, words, phrases, among others, of the business by giving you the right to own certain words and pictures. These words, logos and phrases represent your business, and thus, others cannot use them.

What can you Patent?

You can patent all most any idea or product — intangible or tangible — provided they solve a problem in a unique, non-obvious and technical way that hasn’t been conceived before — for example, heated ski-boots, hoverboards, wireless technology, among hundreds of others.

Another requirement for obtaining a patent is that your invention should be capable of industrial application. This means that it should take the form of an apparatus, a machine, device or even a new material, that can be used by the industry.

Once you’ve patented your invention, you can choose to sell it or license the use of your invention. In most of the cases, your patent will last up to 20 years in most countries and following that period anyone can freely use your product as they please.

Also read: Intellectual Property Rights and their types explained

How to acquire a Patent?

What is Intellectual Property Rights? IPR types explainedA common misconception is that a patent is gained automatically in the same way as copyright. This, however, is not true, and it is up to the inventor to apply for the patent. To acquire a patent, the first thing an investor must do is to apply for a patent to the patent offices in the countries of their choice — usually where they see a prospective or growing market — within one year of disclosing the concept or idea to the public by publishing a description. 

For the above process, the inventor or his attorney has to conduct a thorough search before applying, to determine the feasibility of the said application. If it is possible, a patent is filed, and a fee is paid to the government after which the patent is checked and processed by a patent examiner.

Now if the patent is granted, then the inventor has to pay an additional fee after which they acquire full rights over the product in that particular area. The duration of the patent varies from 15 to 20 years after which it ceases to exist. A utility patent, in particular, can also get terminated if the inventor does not pay the required yearly fees for maintaining the patent.

Also, the government doesn’t protect against any infringement of the patent. It is up to the inventor to keep an eye on the market or media to spot any potential competitors trying to take advantage of your invention.

Now, let us see how you can acquire patents in India, US, UK and Australia.

How to acquire a Patent in India?

To apply for a patent in India, you have to fill the required forms and submit them to the patent offices applicable to the respective locations. These offices are located in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. 

In case you have a class 3 digital certificate, then you can also submit them online here. If you send hard copies during your application to the patent office, then you will have to pay a 10% fee, which isn’t charged from online applicants.

An essential requirement during patent application is that of the patent specification and drafting one requires a considerable degree of skill and knowledge of both the patent functionality as well as patent law. Hence, it is recommended that you hire a patent practitioner for the same.

Also, it is mandatory to have a patent agent submit your application as they have sufficient knowledge with regards to the Indian Patent Act, and are the only persons authorised by the Patent Office to file patent applications on the applicant’s behalf.

How to acquire a Patent in USA?

In the United States, the patent governing body is known as the US Patent and Trademark Office, otherwise known as USPTO. To help applicants with their applications, it offers various online seminars and sessions. 

According to an official United States government website, the USPTO receives over 500,000 applications every year. It’s headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, while it has four other regional offices spread across the country in Texas, Colorado, Michigan, and California. You can find the list of regional offices on their website here.

How to acquire a Patent in Australia?

To apply for a patent in Australia, you will have to apply with IP Australia (Intellectual Property). To do so, you can either file a patent application online, or download the hard copy from the website itself, and apply to a patent attorney. 

After applying for the patent, your application will be examined and will be kept on hold for three months to allow objections from other parties. After three months if no challenges are put forth, your patent will be granted.

How to acquire a Patent in UK?

You will have to head to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) online or get in touch with them by post. The time duration before you get your patent granted varies. For example, if your product solves some environmental issues, then you could be granted faster. The asking fee ranges from £60 – £100.

Also read: What is EULA? Why is it used?

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