A patent protects the technical and functional aspects of how something works. It is an intellectual property right which is granted to an inventor as a reward for publically disclosing their invention. The maximum term of a patent in most countries is 20 years and thereafter anyone is free to work and improve upon that invention without the risk of infringing the patent. The patent system therefore helps to ensure technology continues to advance in the right direction.
A patent is a territorial and negative right to prevent others doing what is commercially important to you and your business in a particular country or region. In other words, you do not need a patent to allow you to do something, but another person’s patent may have an impact on whether you are able to make or sell your product or use your process in a particular country, so it is important to ensure that the patent landscape is clear before doing so.
The key requirements to be granted a patent in most major jurisdictions are that the invention is new and inventive, i.e. not obvious, in view of what is already known. It is vital the invention is not publically disclosed before a patent application is filed because doing so could prejudice any chance of obtaining valid patent protection for the invention anywhere in the world.
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