Are you an inventor or business owner who wants to protect an invention in Australia? Learn more about the patent basics in Australia so you can protect your rights.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal document that grants exclusive rights allowing the patent holder to exploit their invention commercially (ie, make money from it) for the duration of the patent. It is a guarantee of protection ensuring that the invention is not used or copied by others. Instead, it gives exclusive rights to the patent holder to sell, use and manufacture their invention for a period of time.
However, unlike copyright, patent rights are not automatic in Australia and need to be applied for at the Patent Office.
Australian law allows patents to be granted for inventions that are related to products, methods, apparatus, materials or processes.
What are the benefits?
Patent protection offers rights to patent holders to stop competitors from manufacturing and/or selling their invention in the country without their permission. Likewise, it also lets patent holders license other individuals to manufacture and sell the invention on agreed terms.
Patent protection also allows patent holders to take legal action against individuals who may be using the invention without prior permission from its owner. As such, it is a way to stop or limit competitors.
In addition, patent protection also encourages inventors to proceed with their research to develop new and innovative products while protecting their invention.
Globally, the benefits extend to protecting export of the invention overseas and transfer of technology worldwide.
In exchange for getting all sorts of protection, the patent holder is required to disclose to the public how their invention works.
How can you apply for a patent?
Patents are issued to inventions that are novel, useful and include an inventive step.
An application for patent protection may be submitted by an individual, a partnership, companies, government entities or other legally recognised persons. The applicant needs to be the inventor himself or should have obtained rights to the invention from the inventor directly or indirectly.
A patent should be filed for as soon as possible since early filing provides the applicant with an early priority date and minimises the risk of unwanted competition.
Since a patent is a complicated legal document, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a qualified patent attorney to make sure that the document is drawn up correctly. On many occasions, applications that are filed without professional help are not successful as they may be lacking in proper information or may be made out for something that is not patentable such as an idea or principle, rather than its practical application.
Are there different types?
Australian patents can be categorised as two different types:
- a standard patent, or
- an innovation patent.
They have some basic differences in the type of protection offered with standard patents offering full protection for 20 years from the filing date, and innovation patents offering the same for 8 years from the filing date.
Pharmaceutical patents are good for up to 25 years after the date of filing.
After the initial patent protection period ends, the patent holder needs to pay annual maintenance fees on their application which will vary based on the type of patent owned. If this is not done properly, then it will become void and the patent will no longer be eligible for enforcement.
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