Patent & IP basics
Patents protect technical inventions in all fields of technology. They are valid in individual countries, for a specified period. Patents give holders the right to prevent third parties from commercially exploiting their invention. In return, applicants must fully disclose their invention. Patent applications and granted patents are published, which makes them a prime source of technical information.
Under the European Patent Convention (EPC), patents are granted only for inventions that are new, involve an inventive step and are industrially applicable. An invention meets these requirements if it:
was not known to the public in any form,
is not obvious to a person skilled in the art, and
can be manufactured or used industrially.
Discoveries, mathematical methods, computer programs and business methods as such are not regarded as inventions. Surgical and therapeutic procedures, diagnostic methods and new plant or animal varieties are completely excluded from patentability. The EPC does not recognise inventions whose commercial exploitation would be contrary to 'ordre public' or ethical principles. These include, for example, means of cloning human life or the use of human embryos for commercial or industrial purposes. Further information on patentability can be found in the Guide for applicants, Part 1, point 27 ff.