What is a patent

Patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor that gives him a temporary monopoly on the manufacturing and sale of the object of the invention.
In this way inventors are granted the right to exclude others from making, using, selling exporting and importing the objects that fall within the patent protection.
The Italian law provides for two different patent types according to the technical-function character of the invention:
  •     patents for industrial invention used to protect devices, tools, manufactures and methods that represent a new original solution of a technical problem, capable of industrial application
  •     patents for utility model used to protect inventions that give special efficiency or easiness of use and application to machines or parts of machines, instruments, tools and other objects in general
Not all innovations can be patented.
In order to be patented, innovations must comply with the three requirements set forth by the law, that is:
  • novelty, meaning that the innovation cannot exist in the prior art. This means that the invention must not be manufactured, sold, exhibited in trade shows or otherwise disclosed or published. The Italian legislation adopts the "absolute novelty" criterion, meaning that the innovation cannot be patented, although unknown in Italy, if disclosures of it can be proved in any other country of the world.
  • originality, meaning that, according to experts, the innovation cannot be the obvious solution of a technical problem achieved on the basis of ordinary information and their adjustment and organisation. On the contrary, the innovation must result from an authentic inventive activity capable of making the state of the art progress in a non-obvious way.
  • Industrial applicability, meaning that the innovation must be capable of being reproduced and used in the industrial field..
The Italian law in force does not consider as invention and  explicitly excludes from patenting :
  •     discoveries and scientific theories, mathematical methods or methods for surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic treatments of humans and animals
  •     plans, principles and methods for intellectual activities, games or commercial activities, together with computer programmes
  •     presentations of information
  •     animal breeds and biological methods used to obtain them, with the exception of microbiological processes or products obtained with them.
Patent registration starts with filing the application with the Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi (Italian Patents and Trademarks Office) (U.I.B.M), directly or through the Chamber of Commerce.
The application must be presented on special forms and accompanied by:
  •     a short summary
  •     the description of the invention
  •     one or more drawings related with the description
  •     payment receipt of government fees

Once filed, the application is examined by the U.I.B.M. to make sure that the invention complies with the requirements set forth by the law.
As an average, three years elapse from the filing date.
The term of patents for industrial invention is twenty years.
Patents for utility model are valid for ten years.

In both cases, pantents are valid only as long as the required government fees are paid.
Within one year from the filing date the owner of an Italian patent application can register equivalent patent applications in foreign countries. As regards the verification of the novelty requirements, foreign applications retroact from the date of the original Italian patent application.
Italian patents can be extended:
  •     for individual countries
  •     through international treaties
Although no "world-wide patent" exist, the owner of an Italian patent can extend the protection through two International Treaties:

the European Patent Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (P.C.T.).

Treaties produce "cumulative effects" only as regards the filing and examination of patent applications.
Once granted, a "cumulative" patent application filed within the scope
of the International Treaties originates multiple autonomous national patents in those countries that were
designated when filing the cumulative application.
Cumulative registrations are preferred to individual registrations because of the cost reduction deriving from "centralisation and standardisation" of the bureaucratic formalities required from application filing to granting.
The owner of an Italian patent application who intends to protect his invention abroad can extend his own patent in one or more foreign countries.

To do this, he must file a patent application with the National Patent Office of each country of interest.

Foreign patent applications are completely independent both during examination or granting and regarding the provisions that must be complied with in order to be valid.

Patent protection in individual countries is compulsory when the owner intends to extend the protection of an Italian patent to countries that have not signed the International Treaties allowing for cumulative registration. On the contrary, it is recommended to reduce costs when the owner decides to extend the protection of an Italian patent to one or few countries that have signed the International Treaties.
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