What is a patent?

Patents are granted for inventions, that is, for new knowledge and ideas. The knowledge must relate to products or processes. Knowledge related to abstract ideas, that is, non applicable ideas, cannot enjoy patent protection.

For example: suppose that instant coffee is sold today as bulk only. John Doe finds out that it is possible to pack the powder in moisture-proof jars, simplifying the marketing thereof. In addition, he realizes that instant coffee powder has longer shelf life when packed in moister-proof jars. Therefore John Doe invented a special jar with sealing mechanism that allows packing the coffee therein. It is important to realize that while John mad his invention, there were already jars used for other purposes, such as for selling jam, however, the sealing of these jars did not allow instance coffee packing. Therefore, Mr. Doe invented two things: one is the use of moisture-proof jars for packing and marketing instant coffee powder, while the second invention is the sealing mechanism which allows sealing the jars, thus making it possible to use them for storing coffee. John Doe is likely to get patent protection for his invention, as it is applicable and practical.

While John Doe made his invention, another person named Mister X (a mathematician by profession) surprisingly manages to find proof to Euclid'saxioms of geometry. Mister X may receive a Nobel Prize for the scientific progress he has made, but it is not an invention for it is neither a process nor a product. In other words, the proof does not constitute “practical” knowledge and therefore Mister X cannot get patent protection for his work. It is a discovery, not an invention.

Patent is in fact monopoly given for an invention (a product or process) for a limited period of 20 years. This means, that the patent holder has the right to prevent others from using the process, as well as manufacture, import and sell the product. A patent is a right granted by the state to the owner of an invention. It is important to understand that it is possible to use an invention even without applying for a patent, however, in this case it will be complicated or even impossible to prevent others from “copying” and exploiting it without obtaining the inventor’s permission to do so.