If you have any sort of background in technical or creative inventions, you have probably heard the words ‘patent’ and ‘copyright’, with a vague idea of what they denote. So, let us discuss what exactly a patent is, why it is so important, and how to go about acquiring one in a way that benefits you.
A patent is a technical, legal document that protects your ideas and inventions against theft, reproduction, or reuse. Simply speaking, it protects your technical hard work from being stolen, or from being profited off without your explicit permission. Similar to how a copyright protects art, writing, and published material – a patent protects the technology and research results that go into producing a new invention or product.
Given that most products are made of many different parts; patents usually protect the individual technical pieces that go into it more often than the whole. For example, you could not possibly patent an entire cell-phone. But you could patent the screen technology, specific battery type, unique application codes, etc.
The Indian Patent Office (IPO) is the main patent granting authority in India. Technically, a patent can be filed without a lawyer as long as you understand the specifics of the process – but having legal aid on your side is never a bad thing. This is because filing the patent requires technical expertise. A lawyer, or patent agent, would know the exact details that need to go into a patent application to prevent anyone from finding loopholes and making your patent-claim redundant. A lawyer can also do the correct due diligence to ensure that an existing patent does not exist for the property you are attempting to claim.
The first step to patent filing is the application process. Generally, a provisional application is filled (an optional step, if you are still in the process of perfecting/finalizing your technology and simply want to explain the novelty aspect of your invention), after which a 12-month time period is given to complete the application. Bear in mind, the scope of the complete application cannot exceed the scope of the provisional one. A complete application can also be a collection of multiple provisional applications. The idea of a provisional application to demarcate a boundary within which you will work.
18 months after the initial filing, the application is published in the Patent Journal, issued by the India patent office. Once published, a request for examination has to be put in within 48 months of the date of priority. This is because the examination is not an automatic process.
The patent examination process can take a fair amount of time. After the initial examination of application, a First Examination Report is issued by the patent office. Once this is done, the applicant has six months’ time to issue any kind of response. Once this response is collected, the Controller has the order for the grant. Bear in mind, once the examination is published, there is also scope for others to file oppositions to your claim (and, generally, the preference for these cases is always first-come). After hearing all notices, and examining all reports (first and subsequent), there is a hearing, and the controller either grants or rejects the application.
A rejected patent can obviously be appealed in an appellate court. But more importantly, in India, there is an allowance of a 12-month period for any post-grant oppositions. On the basis of any of these oppositions, the patent can be amended, or rescinded.
In situations like this, it is necessary to have legal aid to ensure that your claim is fully in compliance. However, even after the patent is granted, it is helpful to have aid to help in any legal claims, oppositions against other grants, and to help you manage the patent for its duration (usually 20 years).
Ultimately, a patent gives you a competitive edge and monopoly over your product in the market. So, ensuring that you process it in the right way becomes crucial to make your hard work not only valuable and effectively monetized, but also to ensure that it is not unfairly and incorrectly used.
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