What are patents?
Several new inventors or techies want to understand what are patents but sometimes find it a bit complicated to understand because of complex legal language and varying global practices. This note is an attempt to help my audience understand patents in simpler terms. It helps anyone who is a patent newbie, understand the basics of patenting.
A patent is basically a legal right that can allow a patent owner to prevent anyone else from making, using, selling, or even importing the patented invention. Thus, a patent is different from a research publication since a patent is an enforceable document, implying, that a patent owner can assert their patent to exclude others from exploiting the patented invention.
How to proceed with patenting?
Once you think you have come up with an idea from your ideation efforts, you need to articulate it clearly irrespective of how incremental its contribution is to the world. A mere thought or half-baked idea of an invention may not be sufficient to patent it and unclear details may cause confusion later during patent prosecution.
As a first step, You should clearly frame the technical problem that is being solved. Post defining the problem, you need to frame at least the basic details of your technical solution/invention and the technical advantages the invention provides. In my experience, at the initial stage, a high level flowchart outlining the essential steps is really useful in articulating the invention.
Post this articulation, you should ascertain that your invention is unique, that is, the same invention should not exist in public domain prior to applying your patent. You can ascertain this by doing a prior art search or by outsourcing it to a professional or a firm. The professional search may cost you a bit but it may also help saving higher patent drafting costs by concretely defining the unique features.
Just in case, you want to try your hand at patent searching, there are many free databases available besides a simple Google search known to most people. Some of these databases are Google Patents, Google scholar, Freepatentsonline, USPTO patent search, EP register search etc. There are many others but these provide a good starting point for a patent search.
After the invention is clearly defined, a patent agent or a patent attorney in your desired jurisdiction can help you file it with a patent office in the desired jurisdictions for further proceedings at the patent office.
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