Sociology Index

Patent Law

Books On Patent Laws

Patent law protects "original inventions and processes" including genetically engineered life forms. The term "patent" originates from the Latin word patere which means "to lay open", meaning make available for public inspection, and the term letters patent, which originally denoted royal decrees granting exclusive rights to certain individuals or businesses.

Patent law - a long jouney since 1474 when the Republic of Venice issued a decree by which new and inventive devices, once they had been put into practice, had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers.

England enacted the Statute of Monopolies in 1623 under King James I of England. Prior to this, the crown would issue letters patent providing any person with a "monopoly" to produce particular goods or provide particular services.

The first patent was granted by Henry VI in 1449 to a Flemish man a 20 year monopoly on the manufacture of stained glass.

In the seventeenth century America, a few inventors were able to obtain monopolies or patents to produce and sell their inventions. Monopolies were granted by petitioning a colony’s legislature.

The Patent Commission of the U.S. was created in 1790.

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a person for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of a device, method, process or composition of matter (substance) (known as an invention) which is new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable.

The exclusive right granted a patentee is the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the claimed invention.

Patents are issued for four types of inventions such as devices, products, materials, and methods. An invention must be unique and useful for it to be patented.

Patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention for the term of the patent. A patent is, in effect, a limited property right that the government offers to inventors in exchange for their agreement to share the details of their inventions with the public.

In order to obtain a patent, an applicant must provide a written description of his or her invention in sufficient detail for a person skilled in the art to make and use the invention. This written description is provided in what is known as the patent specification, which often is accompanied by figures that show how the invention is made and how it operates. In addition, at the end of the specification, the applicant must provide the patent office with one or more claims that distinctly point out what the applicant regards as his or her invention. A claim, unlike the body of the specification, is not a detailed description of the invention, but a succinct series of words designed to provide the public with notice of precisely what the patent owner has a right to exclude others from making, using, or selling. Claims are often analogized to a deed or other instrument that, in the context of real property, sets the metes and bounds of an owner's right to exclude. It is the claims that define what a patent covers or does not cover. A single patent may contain numerous claims, each of which is regarded as a distinct invention.

The grant of patent gives an inventor the right to exclude others from exploiting or   making capital out of the invention for a limited period of time.

The philosophy behind the patent system is to encourage inventions by promoting their protection and helping the inventor capitalize.

Patents are enforced through civil lawsuits. Typically, the patent owner will seek monetary compensation for past infringement, and will seek an injunction prohibiting the defendant from engaging in future acts of infringement.

An important limitation on the ability of a patent owner to successfully assert his or her patent in civil litigation is the accused infringer's right to challenge the validity of that patent. Civil courts hearing patent cases can and often do declare patents invalid.
The grounds on which a patent can be found invalid are set out in the relevent patent legislation and vary between countries. Often, the grounds are a sub-set of the requirements for patentability in the relevant country.

The vast majority of patent rights, however, are not determined through litigation, but are resolved privately through patent licensing. Patent licensing agreements are effectively contracts in which the patent owner (the licensor) agrees not to sue the licensee for infringement of the licensor's patent rights.

Justifications for granting patents:

Patents facilitate and encourage disclosure of innovations into the public domain for the common good. Awarding patents generally makes the details of new technology publicly available, for exploitation by anyone after patent protection ends, or for further improvement by other inventors (who may in turn patent these improvements). Furthermore, when a patent's term has
expired, the public record ensures that the patentee's idea is not lost to humanity.

Patents incentivize economically efficient research and development. Without patent protection, corporations would be much more conservative about the R&D investments they made, as third parties would be free to exploit any developments. This is more like the basic idea underlying traditional property rights: why build a house if another person could freely occupy it?

Patent rights create an incentive for companies to develop workarounds to patented inventions, thereby creating improved or alternative technologies that might not otherwise have been developed.

Rajrathnam V P, Attorney/Advocate and IPR Consultant - rajrathnamvp@yahoo.co.in.