Are Patents Relevant to my Business?

Most people think of patents in relation to major scientific breakthroughs such as Edison’s first electric lamp or large corporations investing large sums in research and development. In fact, there are approximately 750,000 patents granted around the world every year. Though many of these relate to the same inventions being patented in many countries, it is hard to imagine that so many scientific breakthroughs are being developed every year. Most patents are granted for less significant inventions including improvements that make the products or processes more efficient or more marketable. In addition, certain countries have specific legal provisions for protecting rather incremental innovations under the form of utility models (also referred to as “petty or innovation patents”) which have a shorter duration than patents and are generally easier to obtain.

While it is certainly true that not all enterprises develop patentable inventions, it is a misperception to believe that patents only apply to complex physical or chemical processes and products or are only useful to large corporations. Patents may be obtained for any area of technology from paper clips to computers. There already exist thousands of patents for simple everyday products such as pens, glass bottles, textile fabrics, or bicycles. (See also "How do you Turn Inventions into Profit-making Assets of Your SME.")