How patents can support inventors and improve lives
1. Patents recognize and reward inventors for their commercially-successful inventions. As such they serve as an incentive for inventors to invent. With a patent, an inventor or small business knows there is a good chance that they will get a return on the time, effort and money they invested in developing a technology. In sum, it means they can earn a living from their work.
2. When a new technology comes onto the market, society as a whole stands to benefit – both directly, because it may enable us to do something that was previously not possible, and indirectly in terms of the economic opportunities (business development and employment) that can flow from it.
3. The revenues generated from commercially successful patent-protected technologies make it possible to finance further technological research and development (R&D), thereby improving the chances of even better technology becoming available in the future.
4. A patent effectively turns an inventor’s know-how into a commercially tradeable asset, opening up opportunities for business growth and job creation through licensing and joint ventures, for example.
5. Holding a patent also makes a small business more attractive to investors who play a key role in enabling the commercialization of a technology.
6. The technical information and business intelligence generated by the patenting process can spark new ideas and promote new inventions from which we can all benefit and which may, in turn, qualify for patent protection.
7. Patent information can be mapped, offering policy makers useful insights about where technology R&D is taking place and by whom. This information can be useful in shaping policy and regulatory environment that allows innovation to thrive. Two examples are below:
In addition to recognizing and rewarding inventors for their commercially successful technologies, patents also tell the world about inventions. In order to gain patent protection for their invention, the inventor must provide a detailed explanation of how it works. In fact, every time a patent is granted, the amount of technological information that is freely available to the general public expands (see Using and Exploiting Patent Information tutorial).
WIPO is making this and other IP-related information freely available to the public through its global databases. The largest of these – it is also one of the largest in the world – is PATENTSCOPE. It contains over 50 million patent applications that can be searched free of charge. The aim in making this information widely available is to spark new ideas and promote more innovation, and also to help narrow the knowledge gap which exists in developing and least developed countries.
Other intellectual property rights
Other IP rights can also be used to protect a new technology, product or service. For example:
Copyright protects artistic expressions like music, films, plays, photos, artwork, works of architecture and other creative works. The term “creative works” is defined very broadly for copyright purposes, such that copyright may be used to protect functional texts such as user guides and product packaging as well as works of art.
Design rights protect the shape and form of a product, i.e., what it looks like (whereas the functionality of a product – how it works – is protected by a patent). Companies invest a great deal of time and money in coming up with new and attractive designs that seduce consumers into buying their products. Design is now widely recognized as a key determinant of commercial success.
Trademarks are signs that are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of others. Trademarks are indispensable tools in today’s business world. They help companies expand their market share and they help consumers identify the products they want to buy in a crowded market place.
Trade secrets can be used to protect the “know-how” of a business. Essentially, laws relating to trade secrets mean that some people (e.g., a company’s employees) may have a legal duty to keep certain information confidential (see Eight steps to secure trade secrets).
An invention can be protected as a trade secret or through a patent. Many businesses use trade secrets to protect their know-how, but there are downsides in doing this. From the company’s point of view it may be risky because once information is disclosed legitimately (e.g., if someone else works out how an invention works), it will no longer be protected. And from a public interest viewpoint, trade secrets are less beneficial than patents because they do not involve any sharing of technical information.
All graphics and content were obtained from the WIPO website, link below: