Who has never heard of patents? Some might have come across them in school, their own company or perhaps encoutered a “patent pending” product. However, not everybody understands their basic attributes – their purpose, their scope and their price.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal protection of an invention guaranteeing its owner exclusive rights to use it, while prohibiting others from doing so.
Typical examples of inventions which can be patented are:
- New products and technologies
- Manufacturing processes
- Chemically produced substances
- Biotechnological processes
- Technical implementations of a software (as computer implemented inventions)
Things that cannot be patented are for example:
- science theories
- animal kinds
- new varieties of plants
- or for example methods of healing people and animals
When submitting a patent application, the patent offices examine a few conditions the invention must meet. Those are:
- sufficient creative/innovative activity
- industrial applicability
What to watch out for?
The object of your application must not be published anywhere (not even by you). Always submit the application first.
Your invention must be innovative. For example, the patent office would not approve the solution to the lack of luminosity of the bulb by adding a second one.
Lastly – industrial applicability – means, that your invention must be useful in any area of the economy (it does not have to be only in industry, but perhaps also in agriculture). The solution can be sold, manufactured, used in production or, for example, for measurement.
The main role of a patent is to prohibit others from using your solution. However, that does not mean, that you cannot infringe on someone else’s patent with yours. The office does not check this, therefore it is your responsibility to ensure that your patent does not infringe on anyone else’s by conducting a freedom to operate search (FTO).
The purpose of a patent may be to increase profits or limit your competition. You can achieve that by securing a long-term competitive advantage in your own production or by providing licenses to other parties.
Patents are also a way to improve your company’s reputation by providing protection and preventing against copying and potential litigation.
When working with a patent attorney, the costs for a Czech patent range from CZK 40-100,000. The price depends on the scope of protection the patent provides, on the complexity of the invention, as well as complexities of the proceedings before the authorities. After the patent is granted, maintenance fees are added – we are talking about CZK 20,000 for the first 10 years.
The scope of patent protection
Patent’s scope is limited by 3 factors: time, territory, and patent claims. When we hear „Face Respirator“, we do not know whether the nanotextile membrane is protected, or the method of attaching the rubber band. We only learn this from the patent claims, which define the scope of patent protection. Their correct definition is the main task of patent attorneys. They define them in such a way that they are not too general and cannot be easily limited/revoked, and at the same time not too detailed to provide the widest possible protection.
Territorial limitation means that the patent is only valid in the states, where it was issued and is regularly kept valid. There is no such thing as a worldwide patent. „Patent-protected invention“ may therefore mean patented in the Czech Republic, or patented in 50 states. In addition to that, in each state the invention can be protected differently.
Worldwide patent does not exist and the costs for multiple patents are high, therefore it is necessary to carefully choose markets that are important for you – now and in the following years. A proper strategy may be obtaining a patent monopoly on your biggest markets, or the markets where your biggest competition manufactures their products. A patent valid in some countries often proves to be the most effective protection.
Patent is valid and enforceable from the date of granting by the patent office, until its owner pays maintenance fees, or until it is revoked. However, the maximum validity period of a patent is 20 years, in the case of pharmaceuticals 25 years.