Protecting Your Technical Innovation by Patenting

Patents protect technical innovation by granting the patent owner exclusive rights to the technical innovation for the duration of the patent term.

Patents are granted for new technical developments that go beyond routine or obvious developments in their particular field.

As a quid pro quo for the exclusive rights given by a patent, the owner publishes a technical specification of the new technology in context for the benefit of a broader technical audience.

There are three key requirements when considering whether or not a technology can be patented: confidentiality, ownership and patentability.

Illustrated : the three key requirements for whether or not a technology can be patented


Research the patenting process

At the outset it pays to get a basic appreciation of what’s involved in the patenting process, as well as working through the commercial outcomes you're seeking, what countries you wish to cover in order of priority, and research and budget projected expenses and timing.


Approach a patent professional

You will need assistance and advice to complete the process, so it is worthwhile reaching out early to get some advice as to you best first steps. Early advice will likely pivot your own thinking to some extent.


Collate materials required for a technical specification

A patent application requires a technical specification of the technology to be patented. It is easy to underestimate how long this takes to prepare or collate. The key here is track what needs to be collated so that you can easily pull together what’s required when required.


Do I need to do preliminary patent searching?

Ideally, yes. This may not be formalised, but at least make notes on what material represents the closest state of the art. This may be existing commercial products, technical articles, published papers, earlier patents. Patentability is affected by what is already in the market, but also everything that has already been published.


Brief a patent professional

This is the time to formalise a strategy and start the patenting process. The technology to be patented should typically be nearing an advanced level of 'technology readiness' but ahead of commercial release. This ensures that only minor details (of minimal or no consequence) are likely to change prior to launch.

Patents FAQ

Do I need a patent?

Patents are not essential for commercial success. Patent protection when available can however provide differentiation and defendable advantage, which can be critical in some industries and commercial contexts. How much does a patent cost?

How do I know if my technology is patentable?

A technology is patentable only if it is new, and not considered obvious. That is, to say, not considered an obvious or routine development of the existing state of the art in the relevant technical field. Newness is an objective assessment with reference to material already in the public domain. Obviousness is inherently somewhat more subjective, despite the development of detailed decision frameworks.

What are the legal rights given by a patent?

Patents infer legal rights to a new technology, which are granted by government authority in exchange for a working technical specification of that technology. Exclusivity rights relates to use, manufacture, sale, and often other actions such as import and export in connection with the patented technology.

What are the alternatives to patents for protecting technical innovation?

One possible substitute is design registration — though protection is for visual appearance rather than technological structure or operation. Design registration can have commercial value alone or in combination with patent registration. A limited number of countries have provision for utility model registration, which in many respects is very similar to patent protection. Some technical innovation can be maintained as confidential information or trade secrets, where possible.

How much does a patent cost?

Expenses associated with patenting are progressive and fall due at procedural milestones as an application progresses to grant, and very much depend on the extent of coverage required. There are also expenses after grant associated with continuing maintenance of patent rights for the duration of the patent life.

Is there a worldwide patent?

No, patent rights are granted on a country by country basis though there is an international application process that is available to reduce administrative and cost overhead.

How long does it take to patent?

Patenting is a lengthy process, but protection starts early on. There are many steps that defer costs. The entire process can be expedited, but few choose this option as it also brings forward costs and can limit the extent to which an applicant can respond to evolving commercial and technical situation.

What is 'patent pending'?

Patent pending’ is the standard term used to indicate that a patent or patents have been applied for (if not since granted) in connection with a technology. This is often done for deterrent effect, to put others on notice of a claim to the underlying technology.tenting is a lengthy process, but protection starts early on.

Is it necessary to mark patented products?

Marking of patented products is not compulsory, but it can be commercially and legal beneficially to describe a product or technology as 'patented' or 'patent pending' as applicable. Application or registration numbers can also be supplied.