How do patents work?
"A patent is a limited monopoly granted by the government to the first creator of a useful, novel, and non-obvious invention" (lecture slide). Patents can be granted for anything (i.e. machines, processes, and non-obvious inventions). Patent law protects *inventions*; this means that a patent can protect both the process and the thing that results from it. An important point to consider here is that in order to be protected by patents, the creator must invent something unique and previously unknown. Patent Law is a federal statute and is stated in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution says:
"Congress shall have the power...to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" (lecture slide).
The organization in-charge of handling patents is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This office administers the law that grants patents; "patent law specifies the subject matter for which a patent may be obtained and the conditions for patentability" (lecture slide).
There are some conditions for an invention to be qualified as 'patentable." These include:
- Subject Matter
- This applies to the 'thing' being patented; it includes processes, machines, and the development of the matter
- This means that the invention must have a real-world use; it cannot be imaginary
- The invention being created must be new or different if a prior art of the same subject matter exists
- This means that the invention cannot be something 'ordinary;' it means the invention cannot be created by the average human
- This is the 'process' by which the patent was developed
If the invention meets the above standards, then it can be patented and vice versa.
There are three types of patents that one can apply for. These include:
- Utility Patents - this is a patent that is applied to a 'process;' a process is something by which the end product results
- Design Patents - this a patent as the name suggest; it's a patent for designing a new method for an article that can be manufactured
- Plant Patents - this is self-explanatory; these are patents given to new species of plants that weren't discovered before
It can be assumed that 'obvious' things are not patentable. These can include naturally occurring things, laws of nature, mathematical formulas, etc. For a creation to be patented, it has to be original and creative. The most important point for patents is that they provide the inventor with a limited monopoly. This ensures that the inventor cannot have unlimited monopoly and that the idea/creation can be successfully used again without legal restrictions.
Digital Patents & Business Methods
Digital Patents are different from regular patents in the sense that they aren't 'physical' patents. A digital patent would be the source code for a software; for example, the software Microsoft Windows is used worldwide and is immensely popular. It is the most commonly used software everywhere from residential areas to large corporations. Windows is a software based on a lot of programming and codes; this 'code' is patented and only the creator (Microsoft) has the authority to reproduce and make copies using its code. Patents are now largely used in businesses since all large corporations use patents to an extent. Tech-giants such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft now have a firm grasp in the 'digital patent' industry.
Business method patents are patents for any new method of doing business. These patents can range from things such as the process to properly produce rubber to early methods to prevent counterfeiting. However, a business method patent is hard to obtain because of the restrictions on them by the government. These restrictions are explained further in the Trends in Business Method Patents section.
This wikispace will explore how patents affect businesses on a commercial level and also recent trends in business patents. There have been several landmark cases that have impacted the business patents industry and these are discussed here as well. After reading the brief description of what patents actually are, our team now welcomes you to browse through the other sections on this wikispace to broaden your knowledge of business patents.
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