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Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
4. What is a patent?
A patent in an exclusive right granted by a country to the owner of an invention to make, use, manufacture and market the invention, provided the invention satisfies certain conditions stipulated in the law. Exclusivity of right implies that no one else can make, use, manufacture or market the invention without the consent of the patent holder. This right is available only for a limited period of time. However, the use or exploitation of a patent may be affected by other laws of the country which has awarded the patent.
These laws may relate to health, safety, food, security etc. Further, existing patents in similar area may also come in the way. A patent in the law is a property right and hence, can be gifted, inherited, assigned, sold or licensed. As the right is conferred by the State, it can be revoked by the State under very special circumstances even if the patent has been sold or licensed or manufactured or marketed in the meantime. The patent right is territorial in nature and inventors/their assignees will have to file separate patent applications in countries of their interest, along with necessary fees, for obtaining patents in those countries.
A patentee must disclose the invention in a patent document for anyone to practice it after the expiry of the patent or practice it with the consent of the patent holder during the life of the patent.
An invention must satisfy the following three conditions of :
(i) Novelty (ii) Inventiveness (Non-obviousness) (iii) Usefulness
Novelty : An invention will be considered novel if it does not form a part of the global state of the art. Information appearing in magazines, technical journals, books, newspapers etc. constitute the state of the art. Oral description of the invention in a seminar/conference can also spoil novelty. Novelty is assessed in a global context. An invention will cease to be novel if it has been disclosed in the public through any type of publications anywhere in the world before filing a patent application in respect of the invention. Prior use of the invention in the country of interest before the filing date can also destroy the novelty. Novelty is determined through extensive literature and patent searches. It should be realized that patent search is essential and critical for ascertaining novelty as most of the information reported in patent documents does not get published any where else.
Inventiveness (Non-obviousness) : A patent application involves an inventive step if the proposed invention is not obvious to a person skilled in the art i.e., skilled in the subject matter of the patent application. The prior art should not point towards the invention implying that the practitioner of the subject matter could not have thought about the invention prior to filing of the patent application. Inventiveness cannot be decided on the material contained in unpublished patents. The complexity or the simplicity of an inventive step does not have any bearing on the grant of a patent. In other words a very simple invention can qualify for a patent. If there is an inventive step between the proposed patent and the prior art at that point of time, then an invention has taken place. A mere 'scintilla' of invention is sufficient to found a valid patent.
Usefulness: An invention must possess utility for the grant of patent No valid patent can be granted for an invention devoid of utility.
Invention means a new product
or process involving an inventive step and capable of Industrial
An invention may satisfy the condition of novelty, inventiveness and usefulness but it may not qualify for a patent under the following situations:
Filing of an application for a patent should be completed at the earliest possible date and should not be delayed. An application filed with provisional specification, disclosing the essence of the nature of the invention helps to register the priority by the applicant. Delay in filing an application may entail some risks like (i) other inventors might forestall the first inventor by applying for a patent for the said invention (ii) there may be either an inadvertent publication of the invention by the inventor himself/herself or by others independently of him/her.
No, publication of an invention in any form by the inventor before filing of a patent application would disqualify the invention to be patentable. Hence, inventors should not disclose their inventions before filing the patent application. The invention should be considered for publication after a patent application has been filed. Thus, it can be seen that t11ere is no contradiction between publishing an inventive work and filing of patent application in respect of the invention.
11. What is considered as the date of patent?
The date of patent is the date of filing the application for patent (whether provisional or complete). The term of the patent is counted from this date.
Term of the patent is 20 years from the date of filling for all types of inventions
A patent has to be maintained by paying the maintenance fees every year. If the maintenance fees is not paid, the patent will cease to remain in force and the invention becomes open to public. Anyone can then utilize the patent without the danger of infringing the patent.
There are two types of patent documents usually known as patent specification, namely
(i) Provisional Specification and (ii) Complete Specification
A provisional specification is usually filed to establish priority of the invention in case the disclosed invention is only at a conceptual stage and a delay is expected in submitting full and specific description of the invention. Although, a patent application accompanied with provisional specification does not confer any legal patent rights to the applicants, it is, however, a very important document to establish the earliest ownership of an invention. The provisional specification is a permanent and independent scientific cum legal document and no amendment is allowed in this. No patent is granted on the basis of a provisional specification. It has to be a followed by a complete specification for obtaining a patent for the said invention. Complete specification must be submitted within 12 months of filing the provisional specification. This period can be extended by 3 months. It is not necessary to file an application with provisional specification before the complete specification. An application with complete specification can be filed right at the first instance.
Submission of complete specification is necessary to obtain a patent The contents of a complete specification would include the following
The naming of inventors is normally decided on the basis of the following criteria:
As an inventor one should share the complete invention with a patent attorney in the same manner as a patient confides in a doctor. A s a doctor may not be able to write a correct prescription without knowing the details of the disease/problem, a patent attorney may not be able to draft a good specification in the absence of details about the invention. Following points should be kept in mind while discussing with the attorney:
After the Patent Office has examined an application and found it in order forgrant of a patent, it publishes the title pf the invention, name of the inventor(s) and the applicant(s), abstract of the invention, drawings and claims in the Gazette of India, Part III Section 2, for interested parties to oppose the grant of the patent. An application for opposition may be filed at the concerned Patent Office branch within four months of the date of the issue of the concerned gazette. An extension of one month is possible; a request for extension has to be made within the first four months. Typed or photocopies of the specification together with photocopies of the drawings, if any, can be obtained from the Patent Office, Calcutta or the concerned branch office on payment of the prescribed fees. One would like to oppose if the idea of the accepted application infringes upon one's invention/existing patent, if the coverage of the proposed patent is very wide which may be detrimental to one's research or if the idea is not novel and so on.
The Government fee for filing a patent application (complete/provisional) in India is Rs.750/- for individuals and Rs.3,000/- for legal entities. An applicant is now required to make a request for examining the patent application within 48 months of filing of the application. In case of applications filed before May 20, 2003 examination request has to be made within the 48 months of filing of the application or within 12 months from May 20, 2003 whichever is shorter. An individual has to pay Rs.1,000/- as examination fee and Rs.3,000/- for legal entities. A sealing fee of Rs.1,500/- for individuals and Rs.5,000/- for legal entities has to be paid at the time of grant (sealing) of patent.
The law does not require that the information disclosed in the patent specification be sufficient for commercial exploitation of the invention. Thus, patent usually will not disclose sufficient information for commercialization. Know how on the other hand, covers all information necessary to commercialize the invention e.g. setting up a production plant. Such information would include, for example, details of the production methods, the design drawings etc. It is this know how which is traded while transferring technology. Know how is always kept as a trade secret and not shared with public. Know how is not protected through patents as most of it is non-patentable matter and one does not take patent on the remaining parts to avoid public disclosure. A know how developed around an existing patent and commercialized subsequently may be an infringement of the patent unless the patentee has agreed to commercialization on mutually agreed terms.
No. There is nothing like a global patent or a world patent. Patent rights are essentially territorial in nature and are protected only in a country (or countries) which,has (have) granted these rights. In other words,-for obtaining patent rights in different countries one has to submit patent applications in all the countries of interest for grant of patents. This would entail payment of official fees and associated expenses, like the attorney fees, essential for obtaining patent rights in each country. However, there are some regional systems where by filing one application one could simultaneously obtain patents in the member countries of a regional system; European Patent Office is an example of a similar system.
Each country is free to grant or refuse a patent on the bases of scrutiny by its patent office. This means that granting a patent in one country of the Union does not force other countries to grant the patent for the same invention. Also, the refusal of the patent in one country does not mean that it will be terminated in all the countries.
22. What is 'mail box' provision?
TRIPS requires that countries, not providing product patents in respect of pharmaceuticals and chemical inventions have to put in a mechanism for accepting product patent applications w.e.f. 1 January 1995. Such applications will only be examined for grant of patents, after suitable amendments in the national patent law have been made. This mechanism of accepting product patent applications is called the "mail box" mechanism.
23. What is an EMR?
TRIPS requires that member countries of the WTO not having provision in their laws for granting product patents in respect of drugs and agrochemical, must introduce Exclusive Marketing Rights (EMR) for such products, if the following criteria are satisfied:
EMR is only a right for exclusive marketing of the product and is quite different from a patent right. It is valid up to a maximum period of 5 years or until the time the product patent laws come into effect.
24. Does India have provision for grant of EMR?
Yes. The necessary amendment to: the Patents Act, 1970 came into force on 26 March 1999. The provision is applicable with retrospective effect from 1 January 1995.
25. What is industrial property?
Industrial property includes:
(a) Patents (b) Utility models (c) Industrial designs (d) Trademarks, service marks and trade names (e) Indication of source or appellations of origin (this is same as the geographical indications adopted in TRIPS);
26. What is the Paris Convention?
The Paris Convention is an international convention for promoting trade among the member countries, devised to facilitate protection of industrial property simultaneously in the member countries without any loss in the priority date. All the member countries provide national treatment to all the applications from the other member countries for protection of industrial property rights. The Convention was first signed in 1883. Since then, the Convention has been revised several times, in 1900 at Brussels, in 1911 at Washington, in 1925 at the Hague, in 1934 at London, in 1958 at Lisbon and in 1967 at Stockholm. The last amendment took place in 1979. mdia became a member of the Paris Convention on December 7, 1998. (Readers may note the use of the phrase 'Industrial Property' and not Intellectual Property).
27. What are the principal features of the Paris Convention?
The principal features of the Paris Convention have been listed below
28. What is the meaning of national treatment under the Paris Convention?
This is a very important concept and is essential for successfully achieving the fundamental aim of the Paris Convention. The idea is to provide equal treatment to applications from member countries, in a given member country and not to differentiate between the nationals of your country and nationals of the other countries for the purpose of grant, and protection of industrial property in your country. Imagine that a national of country X applies for grant of a patent in India. According to the Paris Convention, the Indian Patent Office shall apply the same norms and rules, to the applicant from X, as applicable to an Indian applicant, for granting a patent. Similarly the applicant from X shall have the same protection after grant and identical legal remedies against any infringement shall be available to the applicant provided the conditions and formalities imposed upon Indians are complied with. No requirement as to domicile or establishment in the country where protection is claimed, may. be imposed.
29.What do you understand by the right of priority and what is its significance?
The date from which patent right is deemed to start is usually the date of filing of complete specification. To obtain rights in other member countries, the application must be filed on the same day in other member countries if it is desired to have the rights started from the same day. However, there are practical difficulties in synchronizing the activities. For facilitating simultaneous protection in member countries, the Convention provides that within 12 months of national filing, if patent applications are filed in those member countries, the patents, if granted in member countries, will be effective from the date of national filing. This right is known as the right of priority. In other words you maintain the priority or the same date of filing in all the member countries and no one else in those countries can obtain the patent rights on a similar/identical invention from the same or a later date.
In case the applicant after a second look at the patent application finds that the patent contains more than one invention or on his own accord wishes to divide the application, he can claim the initial date of priority for subsequent patent applications. The applicant may also, on his own initiative, divide a patent application and preserve as the date of each divisional application the date of the initial application and the benefit of the right of priority, if any. Each country of the Union shall have the right to determine the conditions under which such division shall be authorized.
Priority may not be refused on the ground that certain elements of the invention for which priority is claimed do not appear among the claims formulated in the application in the country of origin, provided that the application documents as a whole specifically disclose such elements.
30 What is implied by importation in relation to working of a patent under the Convention?
Importation is considered as working of patent, provided the patented product is manufactured in a member country and is imported into another member country which has also granted a patent on the same invention to the same applicant. Imagine that a product X has been patented in two member countries A and B. The product X is then manufactured in country A and imported into the country B. This product X shall enjooy the same patent protection in the country B even though it has been manufactured in the country A. This would also be considered as if the patent has been worked in country B.
31 Is there a provision for compulsory license in the Paris Convention?
Yes, each member country shall have the right to provide for the grant of compulsory licenses to prevent the abuses resulting from the exclusive rights conferred by the patent. Compulsory licenses for failure to work or insufficient working of the invention may not be requested before the period of time of non-working or insufficient working has elapsed. This time limit is four years from the date of filing of the patent application or three years from the date of the grant. Such licenses will be a non-exclusive and non-transferable one.
32 Is there any relationship between the Paris Convention and the TRIPS Agreement?
It has been made mandatory for the member countries of the TRIPS Agreement to comply with the Article 1 to 12 and Article 19 of the Paris Convention.
There are a number of international conventions and treaties, which are open only to the members of the Paris Convention. Some of these are:
This is an international convention governing the recognition of deposits in officially approved culture collections for the purpose of patent applications in any country that is a party to it. Because of the difficulties and on occasion of virtual impossibility of reproducing a microorganism from a description of it in a patent specification, it is essential to deposit a strain in a culture collection centre for testing and examination by others. The Treaty was signed in Budapest in 1973 and later on amended in 1980. India has become a member of this Treaty, with effect from December 17, 2001.
An inventor is required to deposit the strain of a microorganism in a recognized depository which assigns a registration number to the deposited microorganism. This number needs to be quoted in the patent application. Obviously a strain of microorganism is required to be deposited before filing a patent application. It may be observed that this mechanism obviates the need of describing a microorganism in the patent application. Further, samples of strains can be obtained from the depository for further working on the patent. There are many international depositories in many countries, which are recognized under the Budapest Treaty.
The Indian Patent Act has no specific provision for patenting of microorganisms and microbiological processes. However, as a matter of practice microorganisms per se are not patentable in India. (However, a recent decision of the Kolkata High Court has held that microbiological processes are patentable in India). In order to meet the obligation under TRIPS. India is required to introduce a patenting of microorganisms. Draft laws in this regards have been formulated. It may, however, be noted that many countries allow both process and product patents in regard to microbiological inventions and microorganism per se. all such countries allow patenting of genetically modified microorganisms but a few also allow patenting of naturally occurring microorganisms if isolated from nature for the first time and if other conditions of patentability are satisfied.
The patent cooperation treaty (PCT) is a multilateral treaty entered into force in 1978. Through PCT, an inventor of a member country (Contracting state of PCT can simultaneously obtain priority for his/her Invention in all/ any of the member countries, without having to file a separate application in the countries of interest , by designating them in the PCT application .India joined the PCT on December 7, 1998.
All activities related to PCT are coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) situated in Geneva.
In order to protect your invention in other countries, you are required to file an independent patent application in each country of interest; in some cases , within a stipulated time to obtain priority in these countries .This would entail a large investment, within a short time, to meet costs towards filing fees, translation, attorney charges etc. In addition you are making an assumption which, due to the short time available for making the decision on whether to file a patent application in a country or not , may not be well founded .
Inventors of Contracting States of PCT on the other hand can simultaneously obtain priority for their inventions without having to file separate application in the countries of interest ; thus saving the initial investments towards filing fees, translation etc. In addition the system provides much longer time for filing patent application in member countries . The time available under Paris Convention for securing priority in other countries is 12 months from the date of initial filing. Under the PCT, the time available could be as much as minimum 20 and maximum 31 months. Further, an inventor is also benefited by the search report prepared under the PCT system to be sure that the claimed invention is novel. The inventor could also opt for preliminary examination before filing in other countries to be doubly sure about the patentability of the invention .
The patent office or nay other office designated by each contracting state becomes a receiving office for receiving patent applications These applications are referred to International Searching Authorities (ISA) which usually the patent offices, appointed to carry out the patent search on a global basis. In case the receiving office is also an ISA, a separate referral is not required . There is also a provision to get a patent application examined by international preliminary Examining Authorities which, in most cases are ISA.
A search report on the patent application filed with a receiving office is received by the applicant/inventor 16 months after the priority date which is nothing but the date of submitting the application in the receiving office. The International Bureau of the WIPO publishes the application and the search report 18 months after the priority date. The original application is then sent to the designated offices indicated in the application. Within two months of this i.e. by the 20th month, the applicant will have to formally apply to the patent offices of these countries for grant of patents by paying official fees and completing other formalities stipulated by these offices (some countries). In case translated copies of the application are required, the same has to be furnished by the applicant. Inspite of submitting the request for grant of patents in designated countries in the 20th month after the priority date, the priority in these countries is the same as the date of filing the original PCT application.
If applicant/inventor has requested for an examination report, the report is usually received by the applicant /inventor about 28 months after the priority date. Within two months of this, the applicant/inventor will have to formally apply for grant of patents in designated countries .The priority of the application is maintained in the designated countries.
(a) By the end of the 20th to 31st month the applicant is in a better position to assess the quality of the invention being protected as a detailed search report or an examination report or both would be available to help making an assessment.
(b) Applicants can re-evaluate their decision about filing applications in all the designated countries after a long gap of 20 to 31 months.
(c ) If not satisfied, applicants may decide to drop a few countries from the list. This decision would also be influenced by the changing market conditions.
(d ) Applicants can delay their investment in respect of the national phase or the regional phase applications by 20 to 31 months without sacrificing priority.
An international application can be filed in any of the Branch Offices of the Patent Office located at New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata (Head Office). Any of these Offices shall function as receiving office, designated office and elected office for the purpose of international applications filed under the Treaty.
An international application shall be filed in the Patent Office which would process the application in accordance with these rules and the provision under the PCT.
Yes, an international application designating India shall be treated as an application for patent under the Act.
The schedule of fees is given below for filing with International Bureau directly:
4. Search fees are additionally payable
All types of fees are payable at the receiving office and it is the responsibility of the receiving office to remit the search fees to the concerned office if the receiving office is not the search authority. Similarly, all other charges due to other agencies, would be remitted by the receiving office. The fees are payable in the currency acceptable to the receiving office as an Indian you can pay all the fees in Indian rupees.
New plant varieties cannot be protected in India at present. However, in many countries such plants can be protected through Breeders Rights, patent and UPOV Convention India is under an obligation to introduce a system for protecting new plant variety. The protection can be through patent or a sui generis system or a combination of these two systems.
48 What is UPOV?
UPOV is an abbreviation of Union Pour la Protection des Obtentionsw Vegetable (Union for protection for new varieties of plant). It is an international convention which provides a common basis for the examination of plant varieties in different member States of UPOV for determining whether a plant variety merits protection under UPOV or not.
There are 5 main criteria to arrive at a decision whether a plant variety is really new or not. These have remained unchanged between 1978 and 1991 Acts of the Convention. These criteria are:
1. Distinctness : The variety shall be deemed to be distinct if it is clearly Discountable from any other variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge at the time of filing of the application .The object of this criterion is to ensure that the candidate variety can be identified amongst all other varieties whose existence is known, whether or not they are protected. An application for protection or for the entry of a variety in an official register in any country causes the variety to be recorded as a matter of common knowledge. In other words, the application for the protection should be filed with UPOV before disclosing it to any other agency.
2. Uniformity: The variety shall be deemed to be uniform if, subject to the variation that may be accepted from the particular features of its propagation, it is sufficiently uniform in its relevant characteristics. .The objective of this criterion is to ensure that the individuals representing the variety which is a candidate of protection, form a group which is identifiable on the basis of the description of its characteristics. In other words, the variation between individuals within a variety must be less than that within a species. In the absence of this condition it would become impossible to identify distinct varieties within species.
The degree of uniformity is determined taking into account the mode of reproduction of the species and all the genetic structure of varieties. The same levels of uniformity cannot be required for a strictly self pollinating species or for a species which is vegetatively propagated. An acceptable level of uniformity would ensure that it can be used for agricultural production. In this regard the difference between the protection, given by UPOV and patent system can be noted.
3. Stability: The variety shall be deemed to be stable if its relevant characteristics remain unchanged after repeated propagation or, in the case of a particular cycle of propagation at the end of each such cycle. The idea is to ensure that the variety will be identical to the description established at the moment of granting protection after repeated propagation.
Stability, as well as uniformity may be lost if the rights holder fails to maintain the variety true to the description established when the rights were. granted.
4. Novelty: The variety shall be deemed to be new if, at the date of filing of the application for breeders right, propagating or harvesting material of the variety has not been sold or otherwise disposed of to others, by or with the consent of the breeder for the purpose of exploitation of the variety. It is also understood that a variety to which people have had free access in the past cannot be protected because then the interest of those w,ho have relied on the free access, will suffer.
As it is some time necessary to see the response of the market to new varieties before deciding whether or not to apply for protectioll, grace period has been included. The period is one year prior to the date of application in the country where the application is filed and in countries other than that in which the application has been filed and six years in case of trees and vines and four years for all other species.
5. Appropriate denomination: The variety shall be designated by a denomination which will be its generic designation. The premise that the variety denomination must be its generic designation class for a requirement that 'denomination must enable the variety to be identified'. Users and consumers need to have some method of knowing that a sample is a sample of a particular identified plant variety; because it is often not possible to identify it from its appearance. This is facilitated by requiring that a specific denomination and only that denomination be used to identify a variety in trade.
50. Does India have any law for protecting new plant varieties?
Yes, India has enacted the New Plant Variety and Farmers Rights
Protection Act in 2001 which, in addition to meeting the technical features of UPOV, provides rights to farmers to use the seeds from their own crops for planting the next crop. Further, there are provisions for benefit sharing with farmers and penalty for marketing spurious propagation material.