Patent Top Ten

1. There is NO such thing as an international patent.

There are "international applications" called PCT applications that need to be converted into national applications within a period of maximum 30 months in order to obtain a patent. Each country in which a national application is lodged has its own process and criteria for patentability.

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2.

Patent applications are NOT the same as granted patents.

A patent application undergoes an examination process to see if it meets the patentability requirements of the country it is lodged in. During this process, the claims are often amended. Thus, a patent application contains claims reciting what an applicant hopes to get patent protection for, but the claims in the granted patent may be different, and only an issued patent contains claims that have legal protection.

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3.

Patents are examined, they are NOT peer-reviewed.

Patent examiners assess an invention against the relevant prior art publicly available in the field of the invention to determine whether it fulfills the patentability criteria. The requirements for patentability are not the same as the criteria used for publishing research results in a scientific journal. They may appear to be more lenient, or much stricter. The most important criteria for patenting generally are whether the invention is enabled by the description submitted, and whether it appears to have been described or obvious from what was already in the public domain before filing (the subject for a publication may be quite impactful without fulfilling the patentability criteria).

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4.

The applicant or assignee of a patent may not be the actual holder of the patent rights.

Patents are commercially tradeable assets, and the patent rights can be assigned or licensed to third parties, acquired in mergers etc.  The holders of licenses or assignments, i.e. the actual rights to use the patents, are typically not listed in the national patent databases.  In addition, the patent owner may have changed since the patent published, although because ownership (assignment) is typically recorded at patent offices the current owner can be determined.  If you want to use a patented technology, it is a good idea to look in the patent office on-line records to establish the name of actual rights-holder.

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5.

Patents have a limited lifetime.

In most countries now, a patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing, provided required maintenance fees are paid. This period is the monopoly period granted to the owner of the patent.

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6.

Patents are rights with geographic boundaries.

Patents are granted by the government of a country or jurisdiction and the rights are valid only within its territorial boundaries.

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7.

Infringement of a patent is generally a legal matter between parties.

In most countries, infringement is a civil wrong, where a person's rights are violated and is up to the offended party to sue for damages or seek other legal remedies. In some countries, however, infringement of a patent is an act committed against the state and may be punishable by fines and imprisonment.

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8.

Claims define the limits of a patented invention and the boundaries of the patent rights....

These rights and limits are not defined by the titles, not the abstract, not the detailed description of the invention, not the examples and figures.

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9.

A patent does not guarantee income to the owner.

As is the case for any tradeable asset, a patent can be promoted, offered in the market and commercialized actively in order to generate income for its owners. Many patents do not generate any income, and if this is the case, sometimes owners choose to allow them to lapse early.  If you are interested in using the technology described in a patent, it is a good idea to check whether the patent is still in force before contacting the owner for a license.

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10.

Patent rights are exclusionary rights.

Patent rights can be used to stop other parties from using, making, selling, offering to sell, and importing the protected invention if the other parties do not have authorization from the holder of the patent rights.  They don't necessarily give a right to use the technology if other patents or laws prevent it.

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