Patents are monopoly rights granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office to protect inventors. The relevant act is the Patents Act 1977 (PA 1977).
If a patent is granted the inventor gets a monopoly over the use of the invention for a period of twenty years, i.e. no one else apart from the inventor can use the invention within this time. The details of the patent and how it works are published on the UK Intellectual Property Office’s website, free for all to study. Thus, the idea is that others should be able to learn from the invention, which contributes to the general body of technological understanding. Once the twenty years have expired, the invention is free for anyone to exploit.
The idea behind patents is that inventors would not otherwise invest in the research needed to produce new inventions. Thus, patent protection is very important in the business world, particularly within the pharmaceutical sphere.
An invention will be patentable if it satisfies four conditions it must: be new (PA 1977 s 1 (1) (a)), constitute an inventive step (PA 1977 s 1 (1) (b)), be capable of industrial application (PA 1977 s 1 (1) (c)) and not be within any of the exclusions in PA 1977 s 1 (2).