All Businesses have Intellectual Property: Part 3

In the last of her three part series, Emma Lambert looks at inventions and know-how. She will help you to decide whether you or your business owns these intellectual property rights and if so, suggests ways you can protect them - some of which are free and easy to put in place.

Inventions - Patents

What is a Patent?

A patent is a monopoly right given to an inventor to protect their invention in specified territories. Patent protection is available for products or methods of doing things that are new; not an obvious step on from what is already known and has industrial application. Patents can be for such things as chemical compounds, products or discrete elements of a product; such as an electrical connection.

Business methodologies, medical treatments and scientific discoveries cannot be patented however. Governments do not consider it to be in the public interest to grant monopoly rights, which effectively prevent access, over medical or scientific advances.

Who owns a Patent?

The general rule is that the owner of the patent will be the person who invented the subject of the patent and successfully applied and obtained its grant. However, inventions arising through employment, employer will own the patent, if he applies for it. Nevertheless, the inventor will be identified on the application and the published details of the patent. Of course, in some circumstances employers will have arrangements with their employees whereby they have joint ownership, or allow the employee an interest in the patent. If you are employed in an environment where you invent things you may wish to consider such ownership when you are negotiating your employment contract.

How do you protect an Invention?

You can protect an invention in two ways. The first is to keep it secret - particularly until you have made a patent application. If you fail to keep the details of your invention secret it becomes public and it can lose its novelty - which is one of the fundamental requirements of a patent. Further, someone else could make a patent application and obtain the benefit of the monopoly.

So, if you have an invention, file a patent application as soon as possible. The process of patent application is a specialist area and is best carried out by qualified patent attorneys. Patent attorneys are obliged to provide new clients with a free 30 minute consultation so the cost of the initial steps should not deter you from exploring patent protection. We work closely...

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