are used to protect inventions which are novel in that they involve
an inventive step over any earlier item to be found in the course
of official (and un-official) searches. The invention should also
be capable of industrial application.
A patent is a monopoly granted by
the government to the proprietor of the patent for an invention
which is fully described in its specification. For a limited period
(currently up to 20 years and subject to the payment of annual renewal
fees) no other party is legally able to make use of the subject
of the patent without the consent of the proprietor. Like other
property the proprietor can exploit the monopoly on their own behalf
or sell, licence or lease it in a number of ways.
There are a variety of topics which
are held not to be suitable for forming the subject of a patent
including: a new discovery, a mathematical or scientific or business
formula, work of art or literature. Similarly, new types of human,
plant or animal diagnosis. Surgery or therapy would not be suitable
for patenting, although a new drug would be. Intellectual property
law is in a state of continuing development and what has previously
regarded as unpatentable in the UK can be re-interpreted, for example,
in the light of developments in the European Community.
A patent can be sought: in the UK,
in individual foreign countries, in various regions (including Europe)
as an international application (single application covering many