A patent gives an inventor (or his employer, as the case may be), the exclusive right to use or sell that invention, for a limited period of time.
When someone creates or invents something, one may receive formal and exclusive protection through statutory rights. This is done to ensure that the creator can recover the investment undertaken in developing and commercialising the invention. A new product, improvements to an existing product or an industrial processmay qualify for patent protection.
In order for the owner of an invention to benefit from the grant of a patent, the invention must be new, must involve an inventive step and must be industrially applicable. There are however some exclusions. These are further explained below:
In order to be considered new, an invention must not have been already available for use by one member of the public before filing or when priority of the patent is claimed. Disclosure to person/s in confidence would not normally invalidate the patent.
An Inventive Step
The requirement of an inventive step means that the invention, contains a step which is not obvious to a person skilled in the art; thus, it is the addition of a new idea to the existing body of knowledge.
This requirement means that an invention must be made industrially or relates to an industrial process. This requirement is generally interpreted widely.
While exclusions from patentability may differ across jurisdiction; the following are normally excluded from patentability:
- Discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
- Aesthetic creations;
- Schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business and programs for computers;
- Presentation of information;
- Methods for diagnosis or for the treatment or of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy; however this does not apply to products for use in any of these methods.
Oftentimes, products/processes excluded from patentability may nonetheless attract another form of intellectual property protection, such as copyright, designs, or trade secrets.
Patents must be registered in order to take effect, and registration is effected in relation to a geographical area. Thus, an invention registered in Malta will only be protected within the Maltese Islands.
Patents Granted Under The Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”) – International Patent
Once an application is submitted under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), an international search is made to establish if there is any prior art related to the application. The application is then sent to each of the national offices in the Contracting States designated for registration within the application. It is these national offices which have the power to accept or reject the registration on a national basis. By applying through the PCT, the process is made simpler and also less expensive than filing separate national applications.
Patents Granted Under The European Patent Convention (“EPC”) – European Patent
When an applicant intends to obtain patent protection in a number of EU Member States, a similar process to the PCT application follows. Therefore, the application to the European Patent Office will result in a series of national applications. It is up to each individual state in which protection is being sought to accept or refuse the application, after a validation process has been carried out in each jurisdiction.
European Patent With Unitary Effect – EU Patent
As from 2014, a new application procedure will come into effect. Applicants will be able to obtain a unitary patent throughout a centralised system in the EU, with the exception of Croatia, Italy and Spain (who did not consent to this procedure). Applications can be filed in any language provided they translate the application in English, French or German. A unitary patent will be immediately effective and enforceable in the new Unified Patent Court, rendering decisions on validity and infringement binding throughout the participating Member States.
National Registration With The Malta Intellectual Property Office
It is still possible to apply for a national registration of a patent in Malta in a situation where the inventor or owner of the invention does not intend to promote the invention online or abroad. Such an application is made with the Malta Intellectual Property Office.
Our Patent Registration Services are designed around our clients. We are able to guide customers in every step in relation to patent registration, starting from patent searches all the way through to the compilation of the patent application form and advice on patent registration strategy in accordance with the key addressable markets of interest. We can also initiate patent infringement proceedings and undertake litigation on behalf of our clients, while quantifying any damages that might have been sustained in the course of the infringement of the rights conferred by the patent with a view to ask for the relevant courts of law to liquidate such damages.