Patents are a fundamental element in the world of intellectual property, and play a crucial role in protecting innovations and promoting creativity.
What is a patent?
A patent is an industrial property title that gives its owner the exclusive right over a particular invention, which means that other people cannot make, sell or use said invention without the owner’s consent. In exchange for this exclusive right, information related to the patent is made available to the public for general knowledge. In other words, patents serve as a kind of social contract in which inventors share their knowledge in exchange for protection of their inventions.
Duration of a patent
An important characteristic of patents is their duration. Generally, a patent protects an invention for 20 years from the date the application is filed. This protection period provides the owner with sufficient time to exploit the invention exclusively and recover the investments made in its development.
Not all inventions are eligible to receive a patent. To obtain a patent, the invention must meet certain patentability requirements, including:
Novelty: The invention must be new, meaning that it must not have been disclosed to the public before the filing of the patent application.
Inventive activity: The invention must involve a step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge in the corresponding field. In other words, it must be inventive.
Industrial application: The invention must be capable of being manufactured or used in some type of industrial activity.
What can’t I patent?
It is important to note that not all inventions are eligible to be patented. In general, discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, aesthetic creations, schemes, rules, methods for intellectual activities, games, economic-commercial activities and computer programs cannot be patented. Nor can the ways of presenting information, methods for the medical treatment of people or animals, plant varieties and animal breeds, and essentially biological procedures for obtaining plants or animals be patented.
Territorial nature of patents
It is important to highlight that patents have a territorial nature, so we can distinguish three types of patents:
- National Patent: With a national patent application, you can protect your invention exclusively in Spain. The application is published after 18 months from the date of submission or priority.
- European Patent: You can file a national application in Spain and, within the following 12 months, file a European patent application, claiming as priority the first national application filed in Spain. This allows you to extend the protection of your invention to several European countries.
- International Patent (PCT): Through an international PCT application, you can apply for protection in multiple countries, making it easier to expand your invention globally.
The choice of patent type will depend on your objectives and the geography of your target markets.
Benefits of obtaining a patent
Obtaining a patent offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides the owner with the exclusive right over the invention, which allows him to exploit it commercially and obtain economic benefits. Additionally, patents encourage innovation by rewarding inventors for their efforts and by sharing knowledge with society. This promotes competition and technological advancement.
Patents can also be an important tool for attracting investors and business partners, as they demonstrate that an innovation is valuable and protectable. Likewise, patents can help avoid litigation and conflicts related to intellectual property.
How patents work in Spain
In Spain, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (OEPM) is the entity in charge of managing the registration and granting of patents. To obtain a patent in Spain, you must submit an application that meets the established requirements and pass a patentability exam.
Once a patent is granted, the owner has the responsibility to enforce his or her exclusive rights. This involves taking legal action against anyone who infringes the patent, which may include imposing penalties and seeking damages.
In short, patents are a valuable instrument for protecting inventions and fostering innovation. They provide inventors with exclusive rights to their creations in exchange for sharing knowledge with society. In Spain, the OEPM plays a fundamental role in patent management, which contributes to the development and protection of intellectual property in the country. Obtaining a patent can have a significant impact on the commercial success of an innovation and the advancement of technology in general.
Source: Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (OEPM). “What is a patent?” [https://www.oepm.es/en/inventions/how-to-protect-inventions/basic-concepts/what-is-a-patent/]
This publication does not constitute legal advice.
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