Overview of Basic Facts about Patents

Patents provide protection over inventions that satisfy criteria like utility, novelty and non-obviousness. A patent right allows owners to prevent others from manufacturing, selling and or using the invention.

However, there are other basic important facts about patents that you should know before we start getting into details:

  • The right to exclude is temporary – it typically lasts for 20 years from the date of filing.
  • Patents are granted by the government after you go through a filing process (which we will talk about in more detail).
  • Patents are jurisdictionally limited in that patents are granted country by country and if you do not have a patent in a particular country then your invention may be free for use in those countries where you don’t have a patent.
  • If someone is infringing on your patent your typical remedy is to go to court.


Select each question reveal the answer.

Patents are time-limited because the purpose of the patent system is to promote innovation by granting a temporary "monopoly" over an invention in exchange for having the inventor disclose and share details of the invention with the public.
Not necessarily. In most jurisdictions the patent (if it meets the necessary criteria) will issue to the party that is the first to file the patent application. This system is called the “first to file system” and in this system, the patent is not necessarily granted to the person who first came up with the invention. In this system, inventors are encouraged to file their patent applications as quickly as possible to avoid losing their patent right to another party who files for the patent first (even if that party wasn’t the first to conceive of the invention). This is why inventors should be careful about who they share information about their invention with. The sharing of information about the invention could result in someone else filing for the patent first (even though it wasn’t their idea) or it could result in an inability to get the patent because prior disclosures to a third party may, under certain conditions, defeat the ability to obtain a patent.
There can be subtle differences in the test for patentability and eligible subject matter in different jurisdictions. As well there are a host of differences in the filing processes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction including differences as to who can file for the patent, what information needs to be made available, the filing fees, the grace period and the manner in which the review of the application will proceed. Patent applications have a prescribed format that must be complied with. They require precision in terms of the information to be disclosed and the manner in which that information is to be presented.
Last modified: Wednesday, 6 September 2017, 8:55 AM