The patent is the most well-known and most frequently used technical property right::
- Over a period of up to 20 years from the date of application, it offers the holder, within the scope of the law, the exclusive right of use of the protected invention and a right of prohibition vis-à-vis third parties.
- In the event of an infringement of a patent, the rights from a patent include:
- Cessation of patent infringement in the future, if necessary enforceable by means of an interim injunction;
- Compensation for damages from the past patent infringement, e.g. in the form of one’s own lost profit, surrender of the profit of the infringer or the costs of a notional license for the object of the patent;
- Confiscation and destruction of the products of infringement and, where applicable, the equipment used for their manufacture (e.g. machines, molds and tools etc.);
- Information about the origin and channels of distribution of the products of infringement.
- It constitutes an object of value in its own right, and can be licensed or sold.
- It provides evidence of one’s own innovative power on the market and can be a public image and marketing tool.
- It can be obtained in most countries, for the most part via the internationally unified application procedure (PCT) and, in the states party to the European Patent Convention (EPC), by means of a unified examination procedure.
A patent’s protection, which is determined by the wording of the claims, covers:
- Technical objects and processes together with the products manufactured directly with these, for example machines, equipment, circuits, devices and their components.
- Processes for manufacturing products, and working and application processes.
- Chemical products, e.g. plastic granules, artificial fertilizer or pharmaceuticals.
- Microbiological methods and their use.
The sequence of events for obtaining a patent, from the idea through to the grant of a patent, may be outlined as in the following example:
- Emergence of the invention and, where appropriate, disclosure by the employee as inventor.
- Assessment of the possibilities for use, e.g. application or non-disclosure, and agreement on the application strategy, e.g. which property rights, in which countries, via which procedural path and at what point in time.
- Drawing-up of a patent application with description, claims, figures and summary with, as appropriate, prior research into the relevant prior art.
- Submission to the patent office and, as appropriate, discussion with the patent examiner on the definition of a patentable object, e.g. response to official decisions with, as appropriate, attendance at oral proceedings.
- Granting of a patent.
- As the case may be, defense of the granted patent in opposition proceedings vis-à-vis third parties.
The carrying-out of all these procedural steps and the advice provided over and above this falls within a patent attorney’s range of expertise.