Invention Protection Guide
The patent system was established to encourage the development of inventions by granting invention owners protection against unauthorised copies of the invention. The patent system offers the invention owner exclusive exploitation of a patented invention for a period of up to 20 years. In return, society benefits from use of the invention thereafter. The following is a brief overview of some important considerations when developing and protecting an invention.
1. Invention Must Be Kept Confidential
In the early stages of invention development it is imperative for invention owners to keep their invention confidential. If an invention is demonstrated or discussed publicly, if a form or product of the invention is sold, or if information describing the invention is published in a document before a patent application is filed, then a valid patent may not be granted.
Invention confidentiality and the right to protect the invention with a patent can be maintained by having anyone who is shown the invention sign a Confidentiality Agreement before any information about the invention is disclosed. An appropriate Confidentiality Agreement can be prepared by a patent attorney.
2. Protect The Invention – Provisional Patent Protection
As soon as a functional design or working prototype for the invention has been developed, it is advisable that the invention be protected by a provisional patent application. A provisional patent application is an initial form of protection for an invention that reserves the invention owner’s right for twelve months to apply for a granted patent not only in Australia but in almost all foreign countries as well.
After filing a provisional patent application, the invention owner is able to disclose the invention to other parties without losing their right to patent the invention. Importantly, provisional patent applications are not ever published, so if the invention owner decides not to pursue patent protection, the information regarding the invention in the provisional patent application never becomes public. For this reason, it is advisable to only disclose the invention under a confidentiality agreement during the twelve month provisional patent application period.
It is also imperative that during the twelve month provisional patent application period, the invention owner explores the potential commercial markets for the invention so that a calculated commercial decision can be made regarding whether to protect the invention in Australia only or in other countries as well.
3. Prior Invention Searching
Before proceeding with the expense of patent protection in multiple countries, it is advisable for invention owners to obtain an indication of the patentability of the invention. This can be done by way of patent database searching before filing any patent application or on the basis of a provisional patent application.
After filing a provisional patent application, it is possible to request an International-Type Search from the Australian Patent Office. This provides significant advantages over other pre-fling search options. The International-Type Search is conducted to the same standard and using the same databases as the search conducted for an International PCT patent application and gives a strong indication of whether or not a patent is likely to be granted for the invention.
As the search is conducted by the Patent Office and as a substantial proportion of the fees for the International-Type Search are refunded if an International patent application is filed for the invention.
Cotters Patent Attorneys
30 September 2008