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Patent Basics

Legal Disclaimer

Nothing in this guide nor any assistance given by the Library and Learning Commons on patent searching is to be taken as legal advice. 

We can’t tell you that your invention can, should, or would be patentable. 

We can help you do initial due diligence research. 

If you plan to apply for a patent and need assistance with the application process, you need to seek the help of a patent professional who specializes in patent applications.

What is a Patent?

A government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. – Google search definition
  • The key to remember is that a patent is a bundle of rights that equates to property. 
  • For the length of time an invention is under patent protection the patent owner has the exclusive right to manufacture, sell or license the use of the invention. 
  • The patent owner may also sell patent to another person or entity, and ownership of an active patent can be inherited like real property. 
  • Any sale of a patent does not extend the length of time patent protections exist for a given patent.


Why Do Governments Grant Patents?

›What does the government get for granting a patent?
  • Public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted*
  • In some cases, public disclosure of any patent application. 
    • For example, in the US patent applications are now published 18 months after they are submitted regardless of whether the patent is ultimately granted or not.  This does not seem to be the case for the vast majority of countries at this time.  The decision to publish all applications versus only granted patents is on a country by country basis.

Who Can Apply for a Patent?

For the United States of America – applications must be by or in the name of the actual inventor.  The person or entity that owns the rights to the patent is the Assignee.  For example, a corporate entity cannot be an inventor.  Coca Cola did not invent anything, specific employees invented things.  Coca Cola can own patents and be the Assignee. 

Rest of the world – the person or entity that owns the rights to the patent, which includes corporations.

What Can Be Patented?

Utility patents are what most people think of when they think of what a patent is -
Utility patents are provided for a new, nonobvious and useful:
Article of manufacture
Composition of matter
Improvement of any of the above

In addition to utility patents patent protection is available for:

(1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (known as Design Patents)
Design patents cover the look and feel of a product – think of Apple’s rounded corners patents.

(2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents (known as Plant Patents)
Plant patents cover grafting and other horticulture techniques that produce plants that cannot be replicated via natural plant reproduction.

What Can't be Patented?

Laws of nature
Physical phenomena
Abstract ideas
Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected).
Inventions which are:
     Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines);
     Or offensive to public morality

Most patent organizations require a working model prototype of the patentable invention/item to be created prior to granting a patent, therefore ideas cannot be patented, no matter how great they might be.

How Long Does Patent Protection Last?

Patent protection terms are not universal.  Each country or regional agreement for patents confers its own rules, regulations, and benefits including patent terms when granting patents.

USPTO – Utility patents are good from the date of filing through 20 years no matter how long it took to be granted 
Design patents are good from the date of filing through 14 years

GCC Patents – 16 years from the date granted*
The GCC PO patent protection term is inferred from information available in the Patent Gazette.  I was not able to find specific terms spelled out on the website.

Where Can You Get Help With Patents?

Preliminary Patent Searching:
ZU Library and Learning Commons subject specialist Kate Holvoet.  See my profile information above.

Abu Dhabi Government Assistance:
Takamul Program