what is a patent

A patent is an exclusive right of commercial exploitation for a certain time, which is granted by the State to the inventor of a product in exchange for its public disclosure.

It starts from the principle that the inventor or inventors have the right to apply for the patent in justification of their effort and contribution to society. It follows, therefore, that for a patent to be granted, the invention must be original, novel and of common benefit.

A patent also implies a negative right. This means that the patent holder has the right to legally prevent the manufacture, sale and commercial use of his product by third parties.

Consequently, the holders of a patent can license third parties to exploit or use their inventions, provided that certain prerogatives are met.

Each country has specific laws that define the terms and conditions under which patents are granted. Some laws provide for patents to be renewable.

Origin of patents

As we know them, patents were created with the purpose of stimulating creativity and invention at the service of social progress, in exchange for guaranteeing the creator the protection of his economic interests for a certain time.

Patents first appeared in the Venice Statute of 1474 and were granted for 10 years only. They were not exactly the same as those in modern use, but still allowed the economic protection of the inventor for the stipulated time.

In those days, patents not only protected inventions but also imports of new techniques that were of benefit to society. This not only resulted in the economic benefit of the State and the holders of the patent, but also created jobs associated with the development of said contributions.

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With the advent of the industrial revolution in the second half of the eighteenth century, patents were revalued, which meant that the States developed specific laws.

Types of patents

utility patents

Utility patents apply to all kinds of inventions for everyday use, whether domestic or industrial. Objects such as: machines, technological devices, consumer products, tools, processes, among others, are subject to utilitarian patents.

Examples of utility patents are the following inventions: the telegraph, the light bulb, the electromagnetic motor, the mouse or mouse, toilet paper roll, etc.

design patents

Are those patents that apply to the aesthetic elements that characterize the design of certain products. Unlike the previous one, this type of patent does not protect the function of the product, but rather its aesthetic or ornamental design, as long as it meets the conditions of being original and innovative. For this reason, the design patent can apply to jewelry, furniture, shoes, clothing, artifacts, prints, among others. Industrial design is one of the aspects protected by this type of patent.

plant patents

Plant patents are those that grant exclusive exploitation rights over seeds that have resulted from genetic intervention or cloning. This case deserves a special explanation due to its complexity.

Patents on plants have generated great controversy in recent years, since over time it has been shown that they hinder the work of small and medium-sized farmers, and hinder freedom of choice about the food to be grown, its varieties and strains.

For example, in some cases, the abuse of plant patents has made small farmers, by court order, forced for life to pay for the patented products of large agricultural corporations.

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One of these products is transgenic seeds that do not reproduce naturally. In the short term, this implies the economic dependence of the small farmer on the seed company. In the long term, it implies the eventual disappearance of the food in nature.

Things that do not allow patents

The following products are not subject to patents:

  • theories;
  • natural discoveries;
  • methods and processes of study, analysis and calculation;
  • software;
  • artworks;
  • information presentation modes;
  • biological processes;
  • surgical and medical methods in general;
  • genetic material as found in nature, etc.

Advantages of patents

  • They stimulate creativity based on the public good;
  • stimulate support for inventiveness;
  • stimulate industrial and commercial development;
  • record all aspects of an invention, material available for consultation and further research;
  • they are public.

Disadvantages of patents

  • Patents can favor monopoly and become obstacles to free competition when applied in an abusive manner.
  • During the term of the patent, speculation on the product is favored, delaying the incorporation of the poorest countries or sectors to the benefits of the invention.
  • The longer the duration of the patent, the more the concentration of power of a few is favored.
  • Patents can delay updating by not contemplating the obligation to improve the invention and by imposing excessive controls on natural competitors.
  • Although, on the one hand, patents help industrial and commercial exploitation, excessive control can be a blocking factor and delay new alternatives.

See also:

  • Copyright
  • Design
  • Industrial design