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Patents and Patent Searching: About Patents

What is a Patent?

What is a Patent?
  • A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention – a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem.
  • A patent provides patent owners with protection for their inventions. Protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years.
  • Patents are granted by national patent offices or by regional offices that carry out examination work for a group of countries. The P. R. China Patents are granted by the national intellectual property administration of PRC (CNIPA). The CNIPA handles over 4 million patent applications per year. Most countries have their own intellectual property office.
  • A patent held in the P. R. China only means that your rights in the P. R. China are protected. Inventors must file patents in several places to get comprehensive coverage. This means that there are many, many places to find patent literature.
  • In the P. R. China, there are 3 types of patents: Invention, Utility models and Design. The CNIPA grants innovation patents for a period of 20 years, and utility models and design patents for 10 years.
What is Patentable?

Inventions have to meet certain criteria:

  • Novel (unique and new, never made public in any way, anywhere, before the date of the filed application)
  • Useful (can be used for production or be utilized, and may produce positive results)
  • Non-obvious to someone skilled in the art (Note: to be patented, full disclosure of the technology must be provided.)
  • Full disclosure is required
Why Search Patent Literature?

  • To identify new research fronts and/or licensing opportunities;
  • To avoid duplication of research efforts;
  • To learn how something works (diagrams, detailed description);
  • To gain protection for an idea or invention;
  • To find information on a company’s activities, or identify experts in a field;
  • To find technical information.

Along with journals and conference proceedings, patents are a major component of the world's published scientific literature. Particularly in technical fields - and most likely due to the commercial potential of new technologies - a significant portion of published information can only be found in patent publications. Patent data is not just for the inventor; it's for scientific awareness for anyone.

How is a Patent Granted?

The first step in securing a patent is to file a patent application. Many patent offices provide a specific form to fill in. In some patent offices, you can file a patent application on line.

The application generally contains the title of the invention, as well as an indication of its technical field. It must include the background and a description of the invention, in clear language and enough detail that an individual with an average understanding of the field could use or reproduce the invention. Such descriptions are usually accompanied by visual materials – drawings, plans or diagrams – that describe the invention in greater detail. The application also contains various “claims”, that is, information to help determine the extent of protection to be granted by the patent.

In addition, depending on the applicable patent law, you may need to submit various kinds of statements, declarations or supporting documents to a patent office. In view of the complexity it is recommended that you consult a patent attorney or a patent agent to prepare a patent application.

After submission of your application, the procedures vary significantly from one country to another, so it is impossible to provide an exhaustive step-by-step overview. Here is an example - Invention Patent Lifecycle in CNIPA, for your reference.


Patent Lifecycle in CNIPA (Invention)