What are Patents For?
You may have heard or read the term multiple times, but what exactly is a patent?
A patent is a set of rights exclusive to an inventor that is granted by a state for a certain period of time, normally 20 years, in exchange for the disclosure of the invention to the public. In other words, it is a legal document declaring and defining the ownership of an invention or a new technology.
Over 150 countries all over the world grant patents in support of the theory that inventors are most likely to disclose their inventions for public knowledge if they’re given exclusive rights. These exclusive rights mean others are prohibited from making, using, or selling the patented invention.
In the United States, the first patent was given to Samuel Hopkins from Philadelphia, PA. On July 31, 1790, Hopkins received Patent No. 1 for the improvement he made “in the making Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process”. This patent was signed by three high-ranking government officials, including President George Washington.
For an invention to qualify for a patent, it must be new (novelty), non-obvious (must involve an inventive step), and useful (industrially applicable).
Though a patent prohibits others (people other than the patentee) to make, use, sell, or distribute an invention, the patent does not give the patentee unlimited rights. This means that just because an inventor has received a patent for his invention, doesn’t mean he’s authorized to use it to violate any law.
Patents are actually beneficial to consumers. It creates this domino effect of benefits. Inventions are made to make lives easier and more convenient. A patent is there to encourage an inventor to share his ideas to the public. Patents make inventors feels safe and secure that their ideas will be rightfully theirs and eventually gain exclusive rights and recognition for such ideas. Once a patented invention undergoes mass production, it is the public that benefits the most.
A lot of products that we use today are patented inventions. Open your bag and you got at least two inventions that were patented by their inventors – the phone and the camera. Walk out to your living room and there’s the television. Walk out to your garage and there’s the automobile. Would you believe that even door handles are patented?
Take SanitGrasp for example. SanitGrasp is an internationally patented restroom door handle that prevents people from getting and transferring germs. It’s one of the first hygienic door handle that’s perfect for public areas like toilets or restrooms.
Going back to the question: What is patent? Setting technicality aside, patent is there to encourage an inventor to share his idea to the public, benefitting not only himself, but everyone.
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