5 most frequently asked questions about patents
We answer five key patent questions.
In order to remain competitive, companies must constantly develop new or improved products or processes in response to customer demands, market conditions, or due to legal, regulatory or technological changes. Many of these developments have the potential to be patentable inventions. It is important for inventors, entrepreneurs and managers to be able to spot an invention that has the potential to be commercially successful, so that they can take the necessary steps to protect it before disclosing it publicly and then bring it to market. Here are five ways to spot an invention which might be suitable for patent protection:
Typically, the easiest invention to identify is one that is unlike anything that comes before it. This could be a new material with unique properties, or it could be a device which does something new, for example, a completely new electrically conductive fibre for smart clothing.
The next type of invention is one which improves upon a known product or process, solving a known (or even previously unknown) issue or problem with it. Products and processes which overcome existing problems are likely to include inventive aspects. An example of this type of invention would be introducing a new catalyst to a chemical reaction to reduce a known variability in yields.
Inventions can also be found in simplifying existing products and processes, for example by reducing the number of components or steps required or making them easier to use. An example of this type of invention would be using the same circuit component to measure temperature and regulate current, when previously two different components were used.
Products or processes with improved performance characteristics can also be the result of an invention. For example, a new blade design may result in a more efficient fan, or a change in a manufacturing process step may increase yield or decrease energy costs by 5%
If you think a new or improved product or process is going to give you a competitive edge over your competitors, there is a good chance there is something innovative that can be protected. It is important to remember that you cannot wait to see if it does give you that edge, as a patent must be filed before the product or process is made public.
These five types of invention are arguably the most common, but there are many more reasons a new or improved product or process could be considered to include inventive features, some of which are specific to different countries, and some of which are very subtle and legally complex (especially in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotech and software-related inventions). Determining such inventions can be tricky, and you should obtain advice from a qualified patent attorney to ensure you are not dismissing inventions that could otherwise be patentable.
For professional advice on whether your product or process development might be inventive, please get in touch to speak to one of our patent attorneys.