Patents are exclusive rights provided to inventors of innovative new, useful, non-obvious machines, processes, industrial designs, articles of manufacture or compositions of matter. Patent protection typically includes provisions of these exclusive rights for a specified period of time, related specifically to the invention.
Trademarks, like patents, provide the holder exclusive rights. They protect signs, designs, and expressions which identify properties of a company’s products and services. When the sign, design or expression identifies a company’s services, it is known as a service mark. Patents and trademarks are both forms of intellectual property.
Sovereign nations typically grant patents to inventors or their assignees for a specified period of time in exchange for the inventor providing a detailed disclosure to the public. Generally, patent protection is available for a minimum of twenty years. However, the duration of exclusive rights related to usage of patented intellectual property does vary by country.
Typically, under the rights granted, third parties are prohibited from commercially producing, selling, using or distributing a patented invention without their having obtained specific rights to do so. In the United States, individual inventors must apply for patents but the patent may ultimately be assigned to corporate entities. Outside the United States, it is more typical for patent applications to be filed by either individuals or corporate entities.
Generally, a formal written application to the nation’s patent office is required and the concept is reviewed by a patent examiner to ensure it qualifies and that there are no precedents to the concepts under consideration. If a patent is infringed upon, the holder must generally enforce their rights through the legal system. Typically, monetary compensation is sought as a remedy to the infringement. In some cases, injunctions prohibiting future acts of infringement are also pursued.
Trademarks and Servicemarks are utilized to claim exclusive properties of products and services by the owner. Like patents, trademark use can be based on both ownership and license agreement. In some jurisdictions, trademark rights can be established through use in the marketplace or by registration through the trademark office or similar jurisdiction. However, some only recognize registration as the appropriate process. Rights typically expire if trademarks are not actively utilized over time.
Trademark infringement can result from intentional acts or occur unintentionally. However, intentional infringement typically results in greater damages to the infringing party.
IP Australia is the Australian agency that administers intellectual property rights and related legislation associated with patents, trademarks, and designs.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is the Canadian agency which grants Canadian patents and registers trademarks.
European Patent Organisation, (EPO)
The European Patent Organisation is an intergovernmental organization established in 1977 based upon the European Patent Convention signed in Munich, Germany in 1973.
Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, (OHIM)
The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market is the European Agency responsible for managing creativity and innovation in the Community trade mark and the registered community design offices.
United States Patent and Trademark Office, (USPTO)
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the Federal Agency which grants U.S. Patents and registers trademarks.