A patent is a form, giving the owner the legal rights to use, and others not to use, manufacture, sell, import or export the product. The product is usually an innovative invention where the inventor sees an exclusive market for sales and the opportunity to make lots of money. A patent is not forever, it is limited to different times in different countries. In most countries patent falls under civil laws and the patent holder must sue the one breaking the patent. It is in the hands of the patent holder to make sure the rights are followed.
Different procedures in different countries
The procedure to get a patent differs between countries. It is the laws of each country and international agreements that controls how patents should work. Usually a patent application must contain several parameters defining the invention. The application has to be specific and meet some relevant demands for a patent. Examples to this can be that the product or invention is completely new to the market. Another example is that the product should be useful, that it is useful to the public. According to the TRIPS-deals of the WTO, World Trade Organizations, the patent should be available in all member countries. There are, however, large differences between the countries when it comes to deciding whether a product is up for patent. In the TRIPS-deal the time of a patent is also regulated up to at least 20 years.
The word patent comes from the Latin word patere, meaning “to lay open”. Historically a patent was something a monarch or government approved for specific people´s rights to an occupation or product. The first forms of patents derive from the 15th century Greece and the town of Sybaris, but the first registered patent system is known to be the Venetian Patent Order from 1474. The authorities made a decree which demanded that new inventions should be reported to the republic to protect against potential intruders. At the time the protection lasted for only ten years. In 16th century England the Crown started abusing the patent, making it a monopoly. King James I of England was forced to recall the state monopolies given and to explain that the rights should be with the inventor. This “Statute of Monopolies” from 1624 is the foundation of the legislation used today on patent laws.
Advantages to patent
A patent gives an incentive to the patent holders to develop and invest in their patent. It also gives an incentive to innovative people to develop their ideas into reality. A patent holder with a good product can, by letting other stakeholders manufacture the product with license, make money without putting in all the work themselves. By making money that way, the inventor can focus on either evolve the product or finance new inventions. Another effect of the modern patent system is to stimulate the market by creating competition. Other inventors create similar products alongside the patent, making the market stimulate into creating new products to the market.
Of course, there are also disadvantages to a patent, one is that the patent holder, for example in the medical industry, can charge unreasonably high prices for their products, which can be life supporting medicine. It should never be about making money when it comes to people’s lives!