1. Are Patent Applications Disclosed to the Public? Patents are granted by patent offices in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention which is thereafter published thus becoming available to the general public. Publication, however, may take place at different stages of the procedure. In some countries, the patent document with the patent claims and the description of the invention is only published at the time of grant. In other countries, patent applications are published generally 18 months after the filing date or, where priority has been claimed, the priority date (for more detail on your country’s procedure for patent application, check your country’s IP office’s website).

  2. What is meant by Priority Date?  It often happens that many people are working at the same time to find solution(s) to a particular technical problem. However, only one of them can be granted a patent for the same invention and most countries follow the so-called first-to-file-system in granting that patent to the one who filed the application first. When you are seeking patent protection for the same invention in several countries, the principle of priority is very useful since you do not have to file your application in several countries at the same time. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property provides that once you file an application in one country party to the Convention, you are entitled to claim priority for a period of twelve months and the filing date of that first application is considered the “priority date.” Therefore, when you apply for protection in other member countries (of the Paris Convention) during those twelve months, the filing date of your first application is considered to have “priority” over other applications filed after that date. In such a case, you still succeed in being the first-to-file in other member countries, even if there are other applications filed before the filing date of your application in those countries.
  3. An Employee has invented a New Product or Process. Who Will own the Rights to the Patent?  In most countries, if an employee has developed an invention in execution of his employment contract, i.e., usually during his working time within the enterprise, the invention (and the related patent rights) will belong to the enterprise. To avoid confusion and possible disputes, employers often specify issues of IP ownership in employment contracts. Depending on the merits of the case, the employee may, however, have a right to equitable remuneration in accordance with legislative provisions or his employment contract.

  4. Are Patents Renewable or may the Term of Protection be Extended? The term of protection under most modern patent laws is 20 years from the filing date of the application. However, in some countries, the term of protection may be renewed or extended for applications in certain fields, such as pharmaceuticals or foodstuffs, which need to undergo an administrative approval procedure before they can be put on the market and, therefore, the patent owner could not enjoy his right, in certain cases, for a considerable period of time after the grant of the patent.