A patent is a protection issued to the inventor of a particular product that goes about performing a function in a completely new way, or brings about a solution to a previously unsolved problem. When applying for a patent, the applicant must make public all pertinent details about the product, most importantly including how it works and what makes it different from what has come before. The patent may be issued by either a regional or national patent office. But that’s all good and fine—the real question is, what specifically does a patent protect a particular item from?
What a Patent Protects
Patents protect the distribution and reproduction of a particular product or device that has been created. The patent owner gets to decide who uses the idea protected by the patent, as well as who does not. They’re particularly important in to the following industries:
- Medicine: Patents are particularly important in the medical field. A drug company may spend billions of dollars researching a new drug, and if they are able to develop a solution, they need to be able to charge an honest price to recoup some of the funds to continue research. Without a patent, other companies could simply steal the idea and produce their own generic versions of the drug.
- Technology: If someone creates a brand new sort of laptop computer, for example, this may protected with a patent. The world of technology is ever-changing, and protections like patents are necessary to guard against would-be imitators.
How a Patent Protects a Product
If a patent owner feels his or her particular patent rights have been breached, these are protected within a court of law. More often than not, if one’s patent rights have been infringed upon, these will be upheld under the law, and consequences will be issued to the offending party who has crossed the limits of the patent. However, it is worth noting that the responsibility of monitoring against illegal patent usage and duplication does lie with the patent holder. This typically isn’t a problem, though, as a person who stands to benefit from his or her patent ownership is going to be well aware if someone is profiting illegally.
What Happens When a Patent Expires?
Unfortunately for a patent holder, patents typically may not be held indefinitely. Typically, the length a patent is issued for is twenty (20) years. In certain instances, this may be able to be extended, but this is for rare circumstances. On the other hand, this can be good for consumers.
- With technology, the dissolution of a patent leads to increased competition, which can actually improve products while simultaneously driving down prices.
- With medicine, people who are in dire need of a particular prescription will gain easier access to them through the production of generic products once a patent has expired.
Patents are absolutely crucial in our society, particularly when a concept is brand new. They allow innovators to benefit from their ingenuity, and they also allow us to live in a safe and protected modern society.