One of the strongest forms of intellectual property protection is patents. Let's give an overview of patents. In this lesson, we'll learn what is a patent, what a patent does and does not give you, and then we'll walk through the requirements for obtaining a patent. What is a patent? A patent is a government grant that provides companies or individuals legal protection for their inventions. The thing to know here is that it's actually something between you as the inventor and a government agency. It's really a contract between you and the government. The contract essentially goes like this. The government will grant you a limited monopoly on your invention in exchange for you disclosing your invention to the public. The idea behind this is if you disclose the very details of your invention, it will help spur other inventors to build on top of what you've done. It spurs innovation. In exchange for that, you're able to corner the market for that invention for a limited period of time. The two main types of patents, utility patents. This is the common form of patents, and design patents. Design patents really protect the functional design elements of your invention. Now, a patent gives the inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling their invention. Now what it does not give you is the right to actually make use or sell the invention yourself. Sometimes that can be a bit confusing. While a patent allows you to prevent others from using your invention, there may be other patents out there that will not allow you to actually practice your own invention. It's very important to understand that distinction. A patent gives you the right to stop others from making, using, selling your invention, but it doesn't give you permission to actually use it yourself. As we've said, based on the contract between you and the government, a patent gives you a temporary monopoly for the duration of the patent. For utility patents, it's 20 years from the date that you filed your patent application, and at least in the US for design patents, it's 14 years from the date you filed your patent application. Now, what are the requirements to obtain a patent? One, you must be an inventor. There are some strict rules around who actually is an inventor. Two, your invention must be patentable subject matter. The application must be filed timely, the invention must be adequately disclosed in the application, and your invention must meet certain statutory requirements. What does it mean to be an inventor? An inventor is more than just coming up with an idea. In order to be an inventor for purposes of obtaining a patent, you must not only conceive of an idea, but you must also reduce the idea to practice. This means you actually have to not just think of an a nice widget, you actually have to either build a widget or be able to explain in great detail how to build a widget so that someone skilled in that area could easily do it based on your explanation. Patentable subject matter. Almost anything under the sun can be patented. Although there are some pretty broad exceptions like algorithms, or laws of nature, or basic scientific principles. The fact that E equals mc squared is not something that can be the subject of patent protection, but anything else like chemicals, or chemical compositions, or processes to produce compositions. Computer software, methods of doing business, methods of producing products, the products themselves. All of these are very broad umbrella of things that can be protected by patent. Now, in order to gain patent protection, you must meet very stringent timing deadlines. These deadlines are very important because in terms of patent protection, if these deadlines are missed, you lose the ability to obtain a patent. We're going to talk about deadlines in two-phase. One, for United States, and then two, for international applications. Because the rules in the US are a bit different. Now in order to obtain a patent in the US, your patent application must be filed within one year of a couple of things happening. First. The application must be filed within one year of you offering to sell or selling your invention in the US. If you are putting your invention on sale or you're offering to sell it, that one-year clock starts. Also, the application must be filed within one year of any public use of your invention in the US. Again, if anyone is using your invention publicly, that's going to start the one-year clock, at which time you application will need to be filed in the US. Finally, in terms of the US, the one-year clock will start at anytime there's a printed publication that describes your invention anywhere in the world. Not just in the US, but if there's a publication that's published and describes your invention, the one-year clock starts from the date of that publication. You must get your application filed within that one year or you lose the ability to gain patent protection in the United States. The rules are a bit different when you're thinking about international jurisdictions. As a young entrepreneur, if you're thinking about getting patent protection early on in your business and you're thinking about maybe getting patent protection broadly across the world. You want to pay real close attention to the international rules. Internationally, your patent application must be filed before there's any public disclosure. While in the US you have this one-year grace period for some public disclosures to get your application on file. You don't have that luxury in most international jurisdictions. Before there's any sale or offer for sale or public use or describing it in a printed publication. If you want to get international protection, you want to make sure you get your patent application filed in those jurisdictions well before any type of public disclosure. Next, your patent applique in your patent application, in you must adequately describe your invention. Now, generally speaking, there are two broad requirements for your disclosure. One, enablement. This basically means that by reading the description of your invention and your patent application, someone who's skilled in the area in which your invention lies, should be able to make and use your invention just based off of your disclosure. Essentially, you must enable your invention in your description. Then secondly, best mode. Your invention may take several forms. For example, if you invented a chair, the chair may have four legs. It could have three legs. Two different forms of the same invention. It's fine to describe all of those forms when you describe your invention in your patent application. But the requirement of best mode is that somewhere in that patent application, you must disclose the best way to make your invention, what they call the best mode of your invention. Now there's no requirement that you actually say which mode is your best mode, but it must be disclosed in your patent application. Now, finally, the statutory requirements for obtaining a patent. Very generally in the US and abroad, there are three primary standards for assessing whether patent protection should be granted. First, the invention must be new. Simply, no one has done it before. Second, the invention must be useful. This is usually a pretty low standard, but there must be some utility to your invention. It has to solve some problem, has to be useful to some degree. Then finally, the invention must be non-obvious. This is usually the hardest hurdle to overcome when trying to obtain patent protection. Essentially, when you're assessing whether an invention is not obvious, you're looking at everything that's out there. What we call prior art. You're looking at all the inventions, all of the academic papers, all of the disclosures that are out there. In light of all of that, your invention must not have been obvious to someone who is skilled in the area. If someone who is skilled in that area, having access to all the information that's out there in the space, it would have been obvious for them to take the next step to arrive at your invention, then you may not be able to get patent protection. Just to summarize, in this lesson's, patent gives you the right to stop others, but it does not give you permission to make, use or sell your invention. In order to get a patent, your invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious. Then finally, and most importantly, timing deadlines matter. In the US you have a one-year grace period from public disclosure of your invention. For international jurisdictions, you must file a patent application before there's ever any public disclosure.