I have set out below an introduction to patents which I hope you may find helpful.
NOTE: The information below is an introduction to this complex field. It is not intended to replace specific advice and, necessarily compresses some legal issues for ease of understanding .
What is a Patent?
The patent system is designed to promote innovation and invention.
It allows someone who has made an inventive step to protect their invention; in return for that protection the inventive step must be described and available for all to see - which will enable others to develop the invention further. The holder of the patent receives a royalty for the use of this invention.
To be patentable the invention must be "new” and "not obvious” and the patentee must describe the invention fully both in words and where necessary drawings.
Obtaining a Patent
A patent is obtained by completing the appropriate forms and sending those with a fee to the Patent Office.
The forms must include a request for a patent, a specification containing a detailed description and, if appropriate, drawings, and an abstract summarising the content of the patent.
Patent Disputes - Infringement
The owner of a patent can bring a claim if his rights are infringed.
The most common type of infringement is a direct breach and will include:
• where the patented item is a product: making it, using it, disposing of it or importing it
• where a process is patented: using it, offering it for use knowing (or where it would be reasonable to know) that to do so is an infringement
• where a process is patented: disposing of, offering to dispose of using or importing a product made by the process
A claim may be made against the person who infringes, or against a person jointly engaged with the person who infringes in what is called a "common design”.
A director can be personally liable for the act of a company which breaches a patent.
Among the major lines of defence open to him a Defendant may allege that there has been no infringement or that the patent itself is invalid. The Court having examined a patent may decide that it was improperly granted and that the patent should be revoked.
There are also special defences which include for example lack of knowledge, or that the patent has been exhausted.
Remedies for Infringement
These may include
• Injunction to prevent a further breach
• A declaration that the patent is valid (if it has been challenged)
• Destruction of the product made in breach
A patent Claim is usually dealt with in the High Court and most often in the Patent Court in London