What is a patent?
The word “patent” actually means an official letter that grants a certain right. A patent is an exclusive right to commercially exploit a technical invention. Generally, a patent term is a period of 20 years after the patent application is submitted to the authorities. It is only possible to obtain patent protection for technical inventions. A common saying is that it is that “a patent is a technical solution to a practical problem”.
In essence the idea behind a patent is that the inventor shares knowledge of the invention in return for a time-limited exclusive right to commercial exploitation of that invention. In that way society benefits from the inventor’s knowledge which is found in the patent application, and the patent proprietor benefits from an exclusive financial right to the invention.
Exclusive national rights
Patents are national rights which means they are generally issued and valid for individual countries. There is no such thing as a “World Patent”, but there are various systems that streamline the application process and makes it easier to apply and obtain a patent in several countries and thus obtain patent protection in important areas.
This means that people who seek protection in several countries have to get an individual patent issued from the respective national authorities. It is also possible to apply regionally, e.g. for a European patent. However, European patents are still enforced on a national level where taxes and fees are paid to maintain the patents. Another option is to file an international patent application but international applications will also have to be issued as national or regional patents at some point.
How do I get patent protection for my invention?
It is possible to obtain a patent by filing a patent application. In Denmark, this can be done at the Danish Patent and Trademark Office. This authority will examine the patent application for patentability before any patent is issued. The description of the invention must be sufficiently detailed so that a person skilled in the art can practice the invention.
It typically takes a few years of processing before a patent application is granted as a patent, but in certain urgent cases a patent can be grantedwithin 1-2 years after submission.
It is also worth noting that there is a connection between the description a patent application and the protection provided by the patent. If you only describe a single way of carrying out the invention, you can expect to get a narrow patent, while if you describe many variations of your invention, it is possible to get a broad patent that also covers all these variations of the invention.
Is it even worth patenting?
Or: How much money do I have to spend to patent an invention?
The answer depends to a large extent on what the expected earnings of the invention are and whether the sought patent protection plays a role on these earnings. If there are no expected earnings, there is basically no reason to patent. It is possible to prevent patenting of inventions, your own and others, by publishing the invention.
Remember: A patent of an invention is never in itself a guarantee of income.