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Protecting Your Idea

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Patents offer inventors exclusive rights to their creations, providing incentives for research and development. They are also an important means of sharing know-how. Patent documents describe new aspects of a technology and can be read by anyone. Please visit  for the latest information.

What is a patent?

  • A document protecting the rights of the inventor.
  • A repository of useful technical information for the public.

How does it work?

  • A patent gives an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using or selling his or her invention for a maximum of 20 years.
  • A profit can be made from a patent by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding.
  • In exchange, you are expected to provide a full description of the invention so that everyone can benefit from this advance in technology and knowledge.
  • The Patent Office will publish your application 18 months after it is filed.
  • People may then read about, but may not make, use or sell your patented invention without your permission.

What kinds of inventions qualify?

Your invention must be new (first in the world); be useful (functional and operative); show inventive ingenuity and not be obvious to someone skilled in that area. It can be a product, a composition, an apparatus, a process or an improvement on any of these.

How do inventors obtain patents?

An application must be filed with the Patent Office.

  • This requires broad knowledge of patent law and Patent Office practice.
  • A trained patent agent can save you from the many headaches that can arise from a poorly drafted patent that inadequately protects your invention.
  • Although not mandatory, hiring an agent is highly recommended; a list ofregistered patent agents is available from the Patent Office.

When should inventors apply?

  • Patents are given to the first inventor to file an application. It's wise to file as soon as possible after completing an invention, in case someone else is on a similar track; however, filing too soon, while still developing an invention, may mean omitting essential features from the application.
  • Public disclosure of an invention before filing will make it impossible to obtain a valid patent. One should NOT advertise, display or publish information on an invention too soon.
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