A patent grants an inventor the exclusive right to make, sell, import or otherwise use his invention. The reason for the patent system is to reward the inventor for his innovation by way of legal monopoly. Once a patent is granted it goes on the public file and will remain on this file for up to 20 years. It must however be renewed after the first four years and then annually.
The invention needs to be new, so must not be in the public domain at the time of filing (known as the ‘Prior Art’). It must also be sufficiently different to what is known at the time and involve an inventive step. Certain things such as a scientific discovery or a mathematical formula cannot be protected by a patent.
The first stage to obtaining a patent is to file a patent application. This involves a description and usually a picture if applicable. The date that this is submitted is the filing date, from this date runs a priority year. Within this year action needs to be taken to ensure that the application does not get discarded.
The next stage is to file a search request. Once this is filed a search examiner will look through the previously published patents and limited literature to determine the patentability of the invention. This report is then sent to the applicant this report can be useful to assess the likelihood of a patent being granted
The patent application will then be published with the search report approximately 18 months after the filing date. If the application looks to have a reasonable chance of being registered, it would be advised to proceed to the prosecution stage.
This entails filing an examination request this in turn allocates the application to a patent office examiner. The examiner will produce a letter detailing any objections. It is then possible for the applicant to provide a response to the objections.
If the prosecution stage is successful the patent will be formally accepted and published. Although this can be some four years after the filing date.
Now its time to relax in the thought that your invention is protected.