World Intellectual Property Organization

Patents

What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.

In principle, the patent owner has the exclusive right to prevent or stop others from commercially exploiting the patented invention. In other words, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported or sold by others without the patent owner's consent.

Patents are territorial rights. In general, the exclusive rights are only applicable in the country or region in which a patent has been filed and granted, in accordance with the law of that country or region.

The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.

Read the full list of patent FAQs.

The patented and eco-friendly SuperAdobe structure
The SuperAdobe is an ecologically sustainable, economically viable, and durable type of building used in developing countries and for emergency shelter. Find out more about how patents play a role in its success by reading the case study. (Photo: Cal-Earth)

Patent topics and issues

Patents are not just abstract concepts; they play an invaluable, practical role in everyday life. By rewarding ideas, patents encourage the development of innovations and new technologies in every field.

(Photo: breakthrough breast cancer)

Biotech and genes

To what extent are biotechnology processes and products patentable? How do gene patents affect medical care and gene testing research and development? Opinions are divided.

(Photo: iStock.com/zokara)

Computer programs

Software producers need protection against unauthorized copying in order to recoup their investments, but using patents for this raises questions.

(Photo: iStock.com/adventtr)

Nanotechnology

While nanotechnology innovations appear generally suitable for patent protection, certain issues require further consideration.

Patent law and treaties

The treaties WIPO administers, together with national and regional laws, make up the international legal framework for patents.  

Patent-related treaties 

The first major international agreement relating to the protection of industrial property rights, including patents. It outlines, in particular, national treatment, the right of priority, and a number of common rules in the field of substantive patent law. Find out more about the Paris Convention.

This treaty established an international patent filing system, making it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries. Find out more about the PCT.

A regularly updated international system for classifying inventions in patent applications, allowing more efficient search and retrieval of patent information. Find out more about the Strasbourg Agreement.

The PLT establishes common and, as a general rule, maximum requirements regarding many of the procedural formalities relating to national/regional patent applications and patents. Find out more about the PLT.

The Budapest Treaty concerns the international disclosure of biotechnological inventions. It stipulates that, for the purpose of the patent procedure, the deposit of microorganisms with an "international depository authority" must be recognized by any contracting state. Find out more about the Budapest Treaty.

WIPO Lex — IP laws and treaties at your fingertips

The WIPO Lex database is a comprehensive search tool that allows you to search international treaties and national laws on intellectual property.

Guidelines and manuals for national/regional patent offices.

Legislative and policy advice

WIPO provides extensive legislative assistance to developing countries on request, including advice in exploiting the flexibilities under international treaties in implementing their obligations.

Standing Committee (SCP)

In the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) WIPO works with its member states and observer organizations to develop balanced international frameworks for patent law and policy. Committee members discuss, debate and decide on diverse issues related to the development of patent law to meet society's evolving needs.

Latest meetings

SCP delegates engaged in discussion
More SCP photos on Flickr. (Photo: WIPO)

Patent filing

PCT — The international patent system

The Patent and Cooperation Treaty (PCT) allows you to make a single international patent application that has the same effect as national applications filed in separate PCT states. In a nutshell, you benefit from one application, in one language paid for in one currency.

DAS and CASE — Services for patent offices

The WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS) allows priority and other similar documents to be securely exchanged among participating intellectual property offices.

The Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) system enables patent offices to securely share the search and examination documentation related to patent applications, facilitating a more effective and efficient international examination process.

Patent searching

PATENTSCOPE

Using PATENTSCOPE you can search through more than 32 million patent documents including 2.2 million international patent applications submitted under the PCT.

IPC — Streamlining searches

The International Patent Classification (IPC) is used to classify patents and utility models according to the different areas of technology to which they relate.

Patent Landscapes — a technology snapshot

Patent Landscape Reports describe the patent situation for a specific technology in a given geographical area. Our reports break down and analyze key information from patent searches for easier visualization and comprehension.

Find out more about searching and using the patent information contained in patent documents.

Patents, technology and development

Expanding access to technology information 

The Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) program provides free access to major scientific and technical journals for local, not-for-profit institutions in least-developed countries; and low-cost access to industrial property offices in developing countries.

Through the Access to Specialized Patent Information (ASPI) program, patent offices and academic and research institutions in developing countries can receive free or low-cost access to sophisticated tools and services for retrieving and analyzing patent data.

Our Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC)  program gives innovators in developing countries access to high quality technology information and related services to help them create, protect, and manage intellectual property rights. 

WIPO’s International Cooperation on the Examination of Patents (ICE) service provides expert assistance, training, and access to collections of patent documents to developing countries – all free of charge.

TISC discussion group. (Photo: Courtesy of OMPIC)

Supporting technology transfer

WIPO supports mutually-beneficial technology transfer through major partnership programs. We also provide training in technology licensing.

(Photo: iStock.com/Foxtrot101)

WIPO GREEN — environmental sustainability

WIPO GREEN is a sustainable technology exchange that accelerates the adaptation, adoption and deployment of climate-friendly technologies, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies.

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(Photo: WIPO)

WIPO Re:Search —  medical innovation

WIPO Re:Search provides a searchable database of available IP assets and resources. It also facilitates partnerships between institutions conducting research on neglected tropical diseases.

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