A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state or national government to an inventor or assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention1.
The invention has to be novel, non-obvious and useful to be patentable. The types of inventions that can be patented include new products, new processes of manufacturing, improvements to an existing product or process, new chemical compounds or compositions, new methods or processes relating to the testing or control of an existing manufacturing process etc. A patent is a form of Intellectual Property (IP) which encourages the economic and technological development by rewarding intellectual creativity.
Today, every institute, university, and company is creating a patent fence around their inventions. The importance of patents has increased tremendously over last few decades. Every company is creating a strong patent portfolio. So what are the advantages involved in getting a patent? How does the inventor or assignee is benefit from having a patent? Are there any drawbacks in patenting? It is very important to know both the advantages and disadvantages before applying for a patent.
Advantages of Patents
- A patent gives the inventor the right to stop others from manufacturing, copying, selling or importing the patented goods without permission of the patent holder.
- The patent holder has exclusive commercial rights to use the invention.
- The patent holder can utilize the invention for his/her own purpose.
- The patent holder can license the patent to others for us. Licensing provides revenue to business by collecting royalties from the users.
- The patent holder can sell the patent any price they believe to be suitable.
- The patent provides protection for a predetermined period (20 years) which keeps your competitors at bay.
- Patents are partially responsible for advancements in medical science, biotechnology, drug chemistry, computers etc.
- Patents reward inventors with the aforementioned advantages and hence, creates bigger and better discoveries.
With these benefits come certain drawbacks. Patents provide plenty of merit but are provided alongside certain conditions. These conditions can sometimes prove to be disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Patents
- A patent is an exclusive right provided to a patent holder in exchange for the public disclosure of their invention. A full description with claims is published and can generally be viewed by anyone with the internet including your competitors.
- After the exclusive patent period (20 years) has passed, other individuals or companies can freely use the invention without any permission from, or paying royalties to the inventor.
- Applying for patent can be a very lengthy, time consuming process.
- Cost of patent filing may be surpass the actual financial gains. If a patent is to be filed further in different countries, then again the cost increases. After the patent grant, annual fees should be paid to the respective patent offices, otherwise the patent period may lapse.
- You must be prepared to defend your patent if need be. Taking action against infringement is costly.
The patent system has its own benefits but also has its flaws. It is in place to provide incentive to those pursuing technological advancement and creativity with the conditions of invention disclosure and time limitation. But does that mean if there were no patent protection, there would be little incentive to invent and innovate? I don't believe so. An inventor does not invent because he/she desires a patent, they do so to further advance the realms of research, medicine, technology, etc. A patent simply provides you with a medium to benefit from your own invention. Yet when you choose that path, you are subject to the conditions laid out by the patent office. Sometimes companies want to keep their composition a secret and as such, do not apply for a patent. In the case of "trade secrets", inventors may choose to keep their invention undisclosed. At the end of the day, it all depends on inventor's perspective regarding their invention. The proverbial ball is in their court when deciding whether or not to patent.