What is a patent?

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A patent is a right that is granted to prevent others from using your invention. This relates to a new product or a process; it could be the material it is made from or something unique about how it is made.

The product or process must be something new and not an obvious invention. It cannot be obvious to someone with a good knowledge and experience of the subject and it must be capable of being made and used in some kind of industry.

Certain inventions are specifically excluded from the benefit of patent protection. In New Zealand this includes scientific theories, business schemes or ways of presenting information, computer programs, methods of human medical treatment and various other inventions.

The process of applying for a patent is complex. The application itself requires both legal and technical information. All the relevant information should be gathered and understood before the application is begun.

Owning a patent gives the patent holder the exclusive or sole right to commercially exploit the invention or process for up to 20 years. However, applying for a patent requires revealing specific details about your invention or process. This will put that information in the public domain and open to being copied after the expiry of the 20 year protection period.

This is an area of law which is subject to change. For instance, the recently signed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement will result in changes to Patent Law in New Zealand, affecting pharmaceutical patents for example.

It is important to note that other methods of intellectual property protection might be appropriate either used in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, patent registration. This might include the use of confidentiality and/or trade secret clauses/agreements.

A lawyer experienced in intellectual property law can assist in identifying and implementing the most effective and appropriate method of protection for your particular invention or process.

To discuss protecting your intellectual property contact commercial lawyer Carolyn Ranson by phone on 837 6891 or email carolyn.ranson@smithpartners.co.nz