A patent is the public disclosure of the invention and the best way of practicing the invention, in exchange for the rights to that information for a set period of time namely being 20 years. A patent permits its owner to exclude members of the public from making, using, or selling the claimed invention.
This type of arrangement is a necessity for any type of scientific work. It allows other people to share in the ideas that have been thought and utilized by a company and/or individuals so that research is not unnecessarily performed twice. This is beneficial to the owner of the IP so that financial reward can be obtained, and knowledge can be freely publicized for others thereby not inhibiting the progression of technology and science. This is a necessary step in the flow of scientific information so that the entire system remains efficient.
The patent is a great way for protecting an inventor’s idea however there are some conditions attached to the granting of a patent. These are in relation to the use and history of the invention. The criteria that need to be met are that the invention is ‘Novel’, ‘non-obvious’ and commercial utility. The invention also has to work (be reproducible) and can not have been published publicly at any event prior to the filing of a patent. These factors need to be assessed before an application for a patent is filed
The patent is the most powerful method available to the owner of IP because it offers the most comprehensive cover, along with the most options in the ways that the idea can make money for the persons involved. Other means of protection are quite feeble in comparison to the patent, for example the trademark. The trademark can be used in conjunction with a patent, but by itself it only secures the right of a name and not the principal idea or processes behind the technology. This allows competitors to use your ideas without having to acknowledge the rights of the inventor, so the only advantage is relying on marketing, being the first and therefore customer loyalty and wanting a specific brand. A copyright is also not effective protection for the physical use of the inventor’s ideas it only provides protection for the ‘expressions of work’ and not the use of ides contained in the work. A patent is the only reliable way of protecting your work.
A patent allows several options of how you can utilize your idea. You can choose to follow the idea through yourself and try to commercialize the idea. This may not be the best option as it most probably will involve a large start up cost, this means that you will need a large amount of capital. This is especially true in the biotechnology industry where equipment may not come cheaply, and large trials are required to obtain reliable results of your work and hence a reliable commercial product. If the capital is not accessible then external investors will be necessary, these may not come cheaply or easily, as potential investors will see the operation as ‘high risk’ and therefore want a large return on their money. They will most probably be reluctant to pour money into an uncertain business that is not operational yet. However there are other ways to utilizes the patent. It is possible to raise money by floating the company on the public stockexchange. It is possible to license the IP to another company and receive royalties or to license the IP to all of your competitors so that a percentage of any profits that are made by them the inventor receive royalties. The entire patent and IP can be sold so that another company can then own the ideas.
There are several advantages and disadvantages involved with the different options by which the invention is commercialized. The most beneficial can only be determined by market conditions at the time, the level of control that the original inventor wishes to maintain over the invention, the financial position of that inventor and the scale of use the invention will have. All these factors must be accounted for when deciding which option is the best.
To obtain a patent for an idea the basic requirements are that the idea is original, reproducible, commercially usable, has not been publicly disclosed prior to the filing of the patent, novel and non-obvious. These factors are essential for the granting of the patent. Once the inventor feels that all these requirements are filled, then a paten attorney should be approached and then an application should be filed. This is the first step towards a patent. After this initial filing the pending application can be extended up held for up to six months which enables more information and data to be collected, this will enhance the case of a patent while still having it in cue. After this period, the pending application is assessed by the prosecution for suitability, and any opposition to the application is heard. Once this process has been completed the application is either granted or rejected. This whole procedure can cost a fair amount of money.
A patent application covering something that is very simple and easy to describe can cost the applicant as little as $2,000 to file with the Patent Office. However inventions that are very complicated or have substantial electronic or large amounts of information can cost as much as $8,000 or $10,000 to be filed with the U.S. Patent Office.
These costs may seem quite high. However, patents are only intended to protect commercially useful inventions. Therefore patent costs are generally small compared to the costs of turning an invention into product, then of marketing and selling of the product. This means that if the invention is not going to make a significant amount of money then it is not worth patenting it.
The ethical considerations of a paten are that the intellectual property of a person or persons is a valued commodity and should be protected. However common ideas and obvious ideas should not be patenable because it is not exclusive property and would also hinder the use of the technology. To illustrate this problem a machine using cogs maybe an non obvious use by nature and therefore patenable, it uses the idea that one cog can turn another at different speeds which is the obvious use of the technology and could not be patented. This may seem small however it is essential to the practical nature of the system. The use of patents is a healthy system, which encourages utilization of inventions and ideas. Providing that the patent is respected where the invention is sold then it is a fair system. It is debatable as to weather a technology should be withheld from people because they do not have the money to afford the technology. Such as a third world country that can not utilizes a strain of crop which yields significantly higher seed weight and therefore they are denied a possible solution to mass suffering, for the wealth of one company. Or they are supplied with an annual crop which can only be used once, as it produces sterile seeds, and therefore they would have to purchase the same invention many times over simply due to a lack of money. This ensures rewards are passed on to the inventors of the invention. This is good in a commercial sense and enables quick progression of commercial products. It is also good in a way of freedom of research information. However the end user might not always be as well off as they could be.
Overall the use of patenting your biotechnology ideas is an essential step in the commercialization of any product in the modern scientific environment. It is a method of trying to reduce the doubling up of research and ensuring the correct people are paid for the inventions. It is essential that some basic rules are followed and every idea is scrutinized by an application process.