Patents are available for most industrially applicable processes and devices. They may cover: Mechanical devices, for example, a mousetrap. Methods for doing things, such as methods for dyeing or bleaching fabrics. Chemical compounds, for example, a new drug. Mixtures of compounds, for example, an improved hand cream. Patents can cover such diverse matters as vaccines for whooping cough, wire-strippers, and chemical processes. Patents in the UK, as elsewhere in the European Economic Area (EEA), have a duration of 20 years from their filing date, subject to payment of renewal fees and not being invalidated. In the EEA, there is also now provision for granting supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) in relation to patents for medicinal and plant protection products In respect of those products which have received a marketing authorisation, SPCs have the effect of extending the related patents for up to five years after expiry of the relevant patent or 15 years from the first such marketing authorisation in the EU, whichever is the less. The purpose of the SPC is to compensate for the reduction in the effective patent life of such products caused by the delays inherent in the regulatory approval process. It must be sought within six months of the grant of the patent, or the grant of a marketing authorisation, whichever is earlier.
Possessing IP rights gives the rightsholder a way of enforcing their ownership against the world. Although this is a powerful tool against the unauthorised exploitation