1. What is a Patent?
A patent is a statutory monopoly granted to an inventor (or his assignee) that allows the inventor (or the assignee) to prohibit others from making, using, selling or (in most cases) importing an invention into the country in which a patent has been granted.
Patents are not automatically granted upon the making of an invention, but must be applied for by filing a patent application. Although not mandatory, it is highly recommended to employ the services of a registered patent agent to prepare such an application. This is so, as a properly drafted patent application not only contains a detailed description of the invention phrased in specific legal and technical language, but, perhaps most importantly, the patent that ultimately issues from the application, contains claims that set out the scope and extent of the monopoly of the invention to which the patent owner is entitled, and as such, may be used by the courts in any subsequent legal disputes to determine precisely the extent of legal protection to be afforded to the invention disclosed therein. Accordingly, a patent application is one of the most complicated documents known to our legal system, and, as such, its preparation cannot, without serious risk, be entrusted to untrained or unskilled persons.
Once issued, a patent, in perhaps overly simplistic language, becomes a part of the law of the land where it issued. Accordingly, anyone who makes, uses or sells the invention protected by the patent without the permission of the owner of the patent is breaking the law of that land. However, like all laws, a patent must be enforced. A patent is enforced by the owner launching a court action (called an infringement action) against those persons who have ignored the prohibition contained in the patent, whether innocently or otherwise. Such an action cannot be launched until after the patent has issued.