What is a Patent?
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. This invention can be a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something or offer a new technical solution to a problem. In short, a patent provides protection for the invention to the owner. A patent can also be described as a document which gives you the right to stop other people from making, copying, using or selling your invention.
Patents provide protection of an invention of any new and useful art, process, machine, manufactured or composition of matter; or any new and useful improvement thereof; which can be used or applied in trade or industry; and which is not known or used by others, and not patented or described in any printed publication in Namibia or any other country.
Examples of products that have been patented are: flat iron, ball point pens and seat belts.
Laws on Patents
In Namibia patent registrations are protected under the Industrial Property Act 1 of 2012, which has been enacted on 1 August 2018.
Institutions responsible for granting patents:
- National: the Business & Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA)
- Regional: the Harare Protocol. This Protocol enables an applicant to file one application and request for protection in specific ARIPO member states (those that are signatories to the Protocol) where the applicant requires protection. A patent granted to the applicant by ARIPO, has the same effect as one granted under the Patents Law of Namibia, except where the Registrar has notified the ARIPO office that the patent shall not be effective in Namibia.
- International: the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT makes it possible for an applicant to seek patent protection for an invention in a number of countries (that are PCT members) by filing a single patent application instead of filing several separate national patent applications. The granting of patents remains within the powers of the national IP office.
Duration of Protection a Patent
A patent provides protection to an inventor for a new product or process for a duration of 20 years in return for the disclosure of the invention. It is renewed annually from the first anniversary of filing until the 20th anniversary of filing. It is important to pay an annual renewal fee to keep it in force. The patent expires after 20 years.
Why is it Important to Register a Patent?
It is important that you apply for a patent before you make your invention available to the public, in order to protect its novelty.
Why are Patents Necessary?
Patents provide incentives to individuals by recognising their creativity and offering the possibility of material reward for their marketable inventions. These incentives encourage innovation, which in turn enhances the quality of human life.
What Kinds of Protection do Patents Offer?
Patent protection ensures that an invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s consent. Patent rights are usually enforced in courts who, in most systems, hold the authority to prohibit patent infringement. Conversely, a court can also declare a patent invalid upon a successful challenge by a third party.
When Should You Apply for a Patent?
You can apply for a patent if you have created an invention. An invention is something that is unique, not obvious, and capable of being manufactured by an industrial process. If you want to protect your invention from being copied, you have to apply for protection of your patent.
Who Can Apply for a Patent?
The person who created the invention (the inventor) can apply for a patent. The inventor can also nominate a person or a company to apply for the patent protection. You cannot patent an idea if you have seen it somewhere else. It must be original and unique.
Advantages of Obtaining a Patent
- Patents provide exclusive rights to the owner of the invention to exploit it commercially.
- Patents provide a means for technological exchange as each patent document describes a new aspect of the technology in clear and specific terms. Patent systems are host to more than 70% of scientific literature.
- Patent documents are vital resources for researchers, business people, inventors, academics and anyone who wants to keep up with new developments in their field.
For inventions to be patentable it must meet the following important criteria: novelty, an inventive step, be practically viable and conform to natural and statutory laws.
- To be granted a patent the invention must be new. It should not have been produced, described or explained to the public.
- It must be innovative (unique).
- It must not be obvious or self-evident.
- It must be applicable to industrial use (be able to be reproduced).
- It must conform to natural and statutory laws.
Excluded from patentability are the following:
- Scientific theories, mathematical methods and discoveries.
- Literally, dramatic, musical, or artistic works; or other aesthetic creations.
- Schemes, rules of performing a mental act, computer programs, and the presentation of information.
- Plant varieties or animal hybrids
- Alleged inventions where there is no sufficient information.
- Perpetual mobile machines which contradict known laws of thermo dynamics.
What Rights do Patent Owners have?
A patent owner has the right to decide who may – or may not – use the patented invention for the period during which it is protected. Patent owners may give permissions to, or license other parties to use their inventions on mutually agreed terms. Owners may also sell their invention rights to someone else, who then becomes the new owner of the patent. Once a patent expires, protection ends and the invention enters the public domain. The owner no longer holds exclusive rights to the invention, and it becomes available for commercial exploitation by others.
Patent application for an invention must be made in writing, citing the complete specifications. This document makes up the most important part of the application, and should contain the full disclosure of the invention and the claims defining the subject matter for which protection is being claimed/sought.