Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) like patents, trade marks and designs are registered at a national Patent Office or Intellectual Property Office, and provide a mechanism that enables companies to obtain legal protection for new and advantageous developments in their products or processes. It is the best way to stop others frombenefiting from your creative efforts and output. These rights are national, so for example, a patent application must be filed in the country with the right market size and sufficiently strong enforcement laws.
Patents last for 20 years although some pharmaceutical patents can get up to 5 years extra protection due to the length of time and extraordinary investment it takes to get a new drug licensed.
The First StepsThis article is too short to go into national differences in Patentability, so suffice to say a patentable invention should solve a problem in a new and non-obvious way, and have a technical element to it. If you have an idea or a working example of an invention, keep it secret and talk to your patent agent of choice.
Filing a patent application is just the first step; the next steps include securing funds to pay for its prosecution and eventually commercialising the invention either by licensing or selling the invention. However, it is vital to get as early a filing date as possible due to the first to file the same invention wins in most countries. In the USA it is first to invent, but this is likely to change soon.
The Costs InvolvedThe cost of a patent application can vary massively, from a few hundred pounds to thousands of pounds, depending on the length of time a patent agent has to spend on drafting the specification (actual document). The more information, especially examples, you can provide to the patent agent the shorter the time he has to charge for. Ideally you could use an Invention Disclosure Form which helps you structure the information into a first draft patent specification.
Once the application has been filed, the applicant has up to 12 months to decide whether or not to proceed or to file in other countries or use the International Application system. The advantage of the International Application is that it postpones the fees for filing in other countries for another 18 months, the filing fee for an International Application is just over €1000 excluding patent agent fees.
Agricultural and VeterinaryThe agricultural and veterinary technology fields are a rich source of invention as can be seen by the large number of related Patent Applications already published this year. For example over 600 agricultural device inventions have been published, and the companies most patent active (assignees) this decade are Kubota KK, Iseki Agricultural Machinery, Mitsubishi Agricultural Machinery and Deere & Co.
The number of Farm Invention competitions around the world is also remarkable; the Farmers Weekly Interactive competition is just one example. Ireland has a good stock of inventors and Henry George Ferguson is probably the most recognisable to the farming fraternity for designing the modern tractor.
DiversifyingClearly farmers have had to diversify in the recent past and this can lead to innovation that would not have happened otherwise. New and inventive ways of dealing with farm waste is great source of innovation as are increasing (a) safety of already existing machines, (b) efficiencies in stock control, (c) increasing crop yields and (d) improving technologies to suit the agricultural environment. Once the basic criteria of novelty, non-obviousness and technical effect are met an invention is suitable for patent protection.