The term ‘patent’ is often not fully understood. We commonly hear the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” but seldom the second part “but satisfaction brought it back”, which changes the meaning of the phrase. Patenting has somewhat of the same flavour.

Patent protection is an important and difficult process, LawPath recommends seeking advice from a patent attorney.

So what is a patent?

A patent is a registered right granted by the law for a device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive, and useful. As the owner of a patent, you have exclusive rights to commercially exploit the invention for the time granted by the patent. Essentially, only you can earn money from the invention.

Why should I patent?

Patenting gives you exclusive rights to generate income from your invention, allowing you to stop others from manufacturing, using or selling your invention. If you would like to, you are able to license the invention to other parties. Patenting supports innovation in promoting the development of new products and technology by providing the incentive of holding exclusive commercial rights to these products.

Did you know that WiFi was invented in Australia? The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) patented it in 1992 and 1996, and to 2013, earned over $430million in royalties (excluding revenue from legal action).

What are the types of patents?

The two most common types of patents are the standard patents and the innovation patents.

To qualify for a standard patent, the invention has to be new (novel), useful, and involve an inventive step. Examination for approval by IP Australia for a standard patent take on average 6 months and can go on for years, but affords the owner of the patent up to 20 years exclusive use of the invention.

The requirements for an innovation patent are the invention is new, useful and involve an innovative step, which is a lower burden than ‘inventive’ for a standard patent. It takes around 1 month to obtain an innovation patent as it is only examined as and when there is a need to (e.g. when the patent owner seeks to enforce against an infringement). While it is quicker, cheaper, and easier to get an innovative patent, it is relatively less valuable and provides lesser protection than a standard patent.

Find out more about the difference between standard and innovation patents in our guide.

What is the time of exclusivity granted by patents?

The protection time frame varies according to the type of patent that is applied for and granted. An Australian standard patent lasts for up to 20 years, an innovation patent lasts for up to 8 years, and a pharmaceutical patent can last for up to 25 years.

That is, if the annual fee is paid. If not, the patent lapses.

Where do I start?

1. Is your idea worthwhile

a. Patent protection is a long process and often quite costly. When considering if you should patent your idea, you should first consider if your idea is commercially viable. Essentially, you would want to patent an idea that would make you money

b. There are two general ways to determine your commercial viability. First, think about the marketability and sellability of your idea (e.g. the iPod). Second, consider whether other corporations will seek a licence to your IP in exchange for royalties

2. Have you told anyone about it?

a. Your patent application could be unsuccessful if you have told someone about it or used it publicly before filing a patent application. If you have not yet told anyone, don’t do so until a patent application is filed. If you are unsure, call a LawPath Consultant on 1800 LAWPATH.

3. LawPath Patent

a. Please contact a LawPath Consultant for more information.

LawPath has access to highly qualified patent attorneys to assist with your patent application. Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about securing a patent, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.