What exactly is a patent? Read on to know

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Mar 03, 2021, 11:10 PM(IST)

AI patents Photograph:( Reuters )

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A patent is a sort of a grant that allows an inventor to maintain monopoly over an invention. In other words, it allows people to prevent others from copying, using, manufacturing or selling their invention.

China has extended its lead over the number two filer the United States, the UN patent agency said on Tuesday.

But what exactly is a patent?

It's a sort of a grant that allows an inventor to maintain monopoly over an invention. In other words, a patent allows people to prevent others from copying, using, manufacturing or selling their invention.

Suppose you invent something really unique and awesome. You are able to explain how it stands out from the rest in simple terms, and want to be the sole owner of your invention. All you have to do is get a patent.

The Oxford dictionary defines patent as "an official right to be the only person to make, use or sell a product or an invention."

If you have a patent, you have the right to decide who may or may not use the patented invention.

Patent protection is usually granted for a limited period -- generally for 20 years from the filing date of an application.

Once it expires, the invention becomes common property and can be freely used by anyone. But you can always apply for a patent renewal.

It's generally accepted that the first systemic patent law was developed in Venice during the Renaissance movement.

In 1474, the Venetian patent statute was passed and it read: "Each person, who will make any new ingenious contrivance, shall give notice of the same to the office of our provisioner of common and it will be forbidden to any other in any territory or place of ours to make any other contrivance in a similar form and resemblance without the consent and license of the author up to ten years."

This idea of granting exclusive rights spread throughout the world. In 1624, England passed a statue of monopolies to protect inventor rights. And in 1790, the US incorporated a patent law in its constitution.

In the years that followed, some of the most famous inventions that touched our lives were awarded patents -- the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell secured one in 1876; the electric bulb by Thomas Alva Edison secured a patent in 1878; Karl Benz patented the internal combustion engine in 1879; Philo Fransworth got a patent for the first electronic television system in 1930; and in 2003, Haartsen and Ericsson received a patent for the Bluetooth.

Today, most patents are issued by the World Intellectual Property Organisation -- a global forum for intellectual property rights with 193 member states.

If you want your patent to be globally recognised, you'll have to file an application at the regional office of this organisation.

In 2019, China was leading the rankings at this body with more than 59,000 patent applications. But this does not mean China is innovative.

In 2020, China ranked 14th on this body's global innovation index.

India filed only 2,053 patent applications in 2019, accounting for fewer that 1 per cent of the global filings. It also fared poorly in applying for trademarks, which make up just 0.7 per cent of its global filings in the same year.

And in industrial design, India was nearly absent, having filed for only three designs against the 21,807 designs globally.

In 2020, India ranked 48th on the global innovation index. And that by no means implies India is short on talent. The underlying problem is the lack of an ecosystem that endorses research innovation -- and the ambition of owning a patent.

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