For the great majority, the word ‘patent’ refers to complex inventions and enormous formulas, to ideas that can be immediately profitable. It also refers to a very specific and overestimated image of what an inventor is. But in reality, being a patent owner is not something granted to large companies or research centers, and the technology to be protected can be very simple, even a simple improvement on something that exists (as long as it meets minimum requirements).
Can I ‘patent my idea’?
First of all, it should be made clear that ideas are not patented. It is inventions that are patented, i.e. their materialization.
Having clarified this point, we must determine whether the product we have developed is actually an invention. An invention is not the same as a discovery, a scientific theory per se or an artistic creation. Moreover, even if it is an invention, we must verify that it is not excluded by law from patent protection. These exclusions include plant varieties, animal breeds and products whose exploitation may be against public order or morality. The latter category would include, for example, human cloning.
Once it overcomes legal exclusion cases, what characteristics must my invention have to be patentable? These are the three minimum requirements:
It is a matter of the invention not being a copy and not being part of the so-called ‘state of the art’, i.e. not having entered the public domain anywhere in the world before filing the patent application.
It is often inventors themselves the ones who have disclosed the information they subsequently want to protect. For this reason, our advice is to file a patent application before disclosing the result of an investigation. Also, if for any reason these results have to be shared first, this should be done through confidentiality agreements or other formulas to protect the research results.
It is about the invention not being a mere modification of something that already exists in an obvious way for someone who is an expert in the invention field. This requirement seems less objective, but patent examiners and experts can use tools to determine a patent application’s inventive step. A technological process is required.
Industrial applicability occurs when the product or process subject to the patent can be manufactured or used in any industry sector, including agriculture. In other words, it has an applicability that provides society with a technological improvement.
If our product meets these three requirements, it can be protected by a patent, which is nothing more than a title granted by the State that provides its owners with the exclusive right to temporarily prevent third parties from making, selling or commercially using the protected invention. In exchange for this exploitation monopoly or oligopoly, the owner is obliged to describe their invention and it is made public.
What are the advantages of a patent?
Besides exclusive rights, the patent confers advantages such as the possibility of acquiring a prestigious position in the market and obtaining a return that exceeds the investment. The patent becomes an asset for the owner, and as such can be licensed or sold if you do not want to exploit it by your own means.
In addition, the marketing strategy allowed by a patent is very diverse. For example, the licenses granted by the owner may be non-exclusive or only for certain territories, and even cross-licenses may be made with companies in the industry. Ultimately, a patent increases its owner’s bargaining power and, if the owner is a company, it reverts to a positive company image, substantially increasing its market value.
However, the process of granting a patent can be complex and is not always the most appropriate means of protection. There are other equally adequate formulas of protection, such as utility models and design patents. Therefore, depending on the use we intend to make of the invention and its characteristics, you can choose the most appropriate and feasible strategy to protect it from infringement, always being advised by experts in intellectual property to help you do so with all guarantees.