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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

12 - Patents for inventions: introduction


What is a patent for invention?

A patent is granted by the Crown and confers private property rights in the form of a monopoly for the invention of products, methods and processes in all fields of technology. The invention could relate to all manner of things including pharmaceutical products and processes, engineering products and processes, medical and therapeutic devices, micro-organisms and computer technology. These things all have in common some human intervention with nature to bring about some physical change. A patent grants exclusive rights to the patentee in relation to the invention in return for public disclosure of the invention.

Patents are available for two tiers of inventions: standard patents and innovation patents. Neither patent will be granted for something that is already known. The invention must be novel, in the sense that its details must not have been published or made publicly available through use anywhere in the world. The invention must also be useful if it is to have the protection of a patent. Different levels of an advance over what is known apply to standard and innovation patents. The standard patent must not be obvious – it must involve an inventive step – whereas an innovation patent requires a substantial contribution to the working of the invention.

Novelty and inventive or innovative step require a comparison with specified documents and acts throughout the world. This base for comparison is referred to as a ‘prior art base’.