How Does Patents Protect Innovators?

In general, in patent law, an inventor is the first person, or in United States patent policy, who contributes to the validity of a patent claim. In some jurisdictions, though, including in the European Patent Convention, a patent applicant can file a broader application that includes not only an abstract, as required by Article Subjects in most patent applications, but also a description of the nature of the invention and related drawings. Thus, in many cases, it is not the abstract that is approved for patenting; rather, the description is considered to be essentially an addendum to the abstract. However, in some jurisdictions, the word “addendum” is not permitted because in these jurisdictions, adding an addendum to a patent application would be considered unnecessary and thus, not relevant. Likewise, a description alone cannot establish a legal patent. The fact that the invention is described does not automatically mean that the description is patentable.

Inventors are considered to be the ones who have designed or produced something using their own inventions. Often, inventors give instructions for performing a certain act, but they do not actually produce or use something as a result of their instructions. Others may use computer languages to describe how to create or use their inventions. The language in the patent application can specify how to carry out the invention or it can describe what kind of method can be used instead.

There are two categories of people who might be considered inventors. First, there are those who are considered to be the product or item innovated, in that they make, produce, or sell an original product or item that is not an improvement over what existed before their innovation. The second category of persons who might be granted patent protection is those who, through the efforts of their business or their organization, come up with new ways of doing things, as well as new ways to present existing products or items. The way that these inventors describe their inventions, or their methods for performing their invention, may qualify them as the real thing, though not necessarily in all senses. Some tangible creations, like machines, are capable of being improved, and, in many cases, patented innovations, like those based on computer languages, have already been patented.

There are different types of inventions that can be patented, according to the USPTO website. These include designs for appliances, mechanical apparatus, chemical compounds, machine parts, improvements or modifications to existing products or processes, and new pharmaceutical drugs. New discoveries about previously unknown materials and methods of performing a specific task can also qualify for patenting, even if the invention was not really novel.

The USPTO strives to publish its database of completed patents so that the general public has access to the list of pending and granted patents as quickly as possible. Anyone can search the database to determine whether an invention is patented or not. However, the patent examiner will review an invention prior to issuing a patent to determine whether the invention meets the requirements for patentability. This process of patentability analysis is the reason why inventors often carry out their own patenting activities before submitting their application to the USPTO. In this manner, they make sure that their invention meets all the necessary patentability requirements.

Inventors must understand that patent law is intended to provide broad protection from competitors. It is intended to discourage the unauthorized creation of competitors’ products, and encourage innovators to develop products that create positive value. However, this goal does not require inventors to disclose their innovation to the patent office. While it may be desirable from an innovator’s perspective to get a patent as soon as possible, often it is best for an invention to be revealed as soon as possible, so that the patent can prevent the competitor from obtaining market power.