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About Patents

What is a patent?

A patent is a right granted to the inventor for a device, substance, method or process that is new when compared with what is already known. A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. It gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission. Patents are often granted for small, incremental improvements to a known technology. A patent is legally enforceable. It gives the inventor exclusive right to commercially exploit her / his invention for the life of the patent.

A patent lasts for a set period of time, to exclusively make, use or sell, any device, substance, method or process, which is new, inventive and useful. A patent application is a descriptive document (often including diagrams) that contains concise written statements that define the invention covered by the patent application.

Most would argue that patent protection fosters technological, economic and social advancement.

According to the UK Intellectual Property Office, for an inventor to be granted a patent ...

the invention, must:

  • be new;
  • have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject;
  • be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry.

the invention must not be:

  • a scientific or mathematical discovery, theory or method;
  • a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work;
  • a way of performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
  • the presentation of information, or some computer programs;
  • an animal or plant variety;
  • a method of medical treatment or diagnosis;
  • against public policy or morality.

 Read IP Australia's "Choosing the right IP" for a patent overview.

Types of patents and their time limits

  • An Australian standard patent lasts for up to 20 years;
  • An innovation patent only lasts for up to 8 years;
  • Pharmaceutical patents can last up to 25 years. 

Inventors are required to pay annual maintenance fees on their patent/patent application.

International Patent Organisations

National Patent Offices