A patent, by definition, is the legal ownership or property right concerning an invention. A patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A patent’s primary purpose is to exclude others from producing or selling the patented product. A patent is particularly useful for business owners attempting to enter the market with a new product. If their product is protected under a patent, then the inventor is the sole provider of that product. This gives the inventor a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, patents can and are infringed upon. If a patent is infringed upon (a competitor makes the same product despite not having legal ownership of the property right) the inventor holding the patent can seek legal recourse through the courts.
One disadvantage of filing a patent for a product is that patents are not permanent. When filing a patent one must disclose details of their invention to the public. Therefore when a patent is expired, the inventor has no way of protecting the propriety of his or her product. This is a key component of patents that is important to consider and even makes some ideas ineligible for a patent.
But what exactly is eligible for a patent? In order to be eligible for a valid patent, the invention must be unique, not obvious, clearly claimed by the inventor, and described in a comprehensive manner. Inventions that can be patented include a process, the machine, a product of manufacturing, or a type of improvement to one of these things. While these broad criteria cover a number of inventions and processes, certain ideas are ineligible for a patent.
Inventions that are not useful, offensive, products of the laws of nature, or abstract cannot be issued a patent. Music and art (including literary works) cannot be patented. Instead, artistic work can be protected by copyright laws.
All in all, patents are a great way to legally protect the ownership of one’s invention. However, patents do come with a cost of disclosing details of the invention. When considering whether to obtain a patent or not, the benefits should definitely be weighed against the costs. We must emphasize, it is important to conduct your own research to find whether or not an invention even meets the acceptance criteria to be eligible for a patent.