Patent Protection

What is a patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property protection that gives the inventor exclusive rights to make, use and sell an invention for a limited period of time.


In order to obtain a patent, the invention must meet certain criteria, including being novel, non-obvious and useful. This means the invention must be something that is not already known or obvious to someone skilled in the art, and it must have some practical applications or uses.

Inventions that could be considered patentable may include, but are not limited to, machines, processes and compositions of matter. This may include anything from a new device, a new drug, to a new type of technology or manufacturing process.

However, there are certain types of inventions that are not eligible for patent protection. These include, for example, laws of nature such as mathematical formulas and naturally occurring or physical phenomena that cannot be created by humans; abstract ideas such as algorithms and other purely theoretical concepts and mental processes; and literary works, musical works, and artistic works, as these are typically protected by copyright but not patent.

Types of Patent

Different types of patents are available in different jurisdictions. The two main types of patents are the invention patents or so-called the standard patents, providing a 20 years term of protection; and the utility model patents or short term patents, with a relatively shorter term of protection such as 10 years for a Chinese utility model patent, or 8 years for a Hong Kong short term patent.

How to obtain a patent?

The process of obtaining a patent can be complex and time-consuming that can involve a lot of legal and technical expertise, but it is an important step in protecting your invention. Here are the general steps involved in the patent application process. Note the steps may vary a lot depending on practice from patent offices in different jurisdictions.

  1. Conduct a patent search: Before filing a patent application, it is recommended to conduct a search to determine whether your invention is novel and non-obvious. This can help identifying any existing patents or published patent applications that may be relevant to your invention.

  2. Draft a patent specification: Once you have determined that your invention is eligible for patent protection, the first step is to use services of a qualified patent attorney to draft up a patent specification for your invention. A patent specification is a legal document which defines the scope of your intellectual property rights for the invention. It is therefore important to note the differences between a patent specification and a technical paper, and more particularly, the significance for the patent specification to be drafted by a qualified attorney so as to secure a broadest possible patent protection in a way that cannot be easily circumvented, and such that the IP rights obtained will withstand challenges on their validity.

  3. File a patent application with the patent specification: Patent protection is territorial. You will need to file a patent application with the patent office in the jurisdictions where protection is sought.

  4. Wait for the patent office to review the patent application: After you have filed your patent application, it will be reviewed by a patent examiner, who will determine whether the invention meets the criteria for patentability. This process can take several years, and may involve multiple rounds of review and correspondence with the patent office.

  5. Respond to any office actions: If the patent examiner has concerns or objections to your patent application, they may issue an "office action" requesting additional information or clarification. Your patent attorney will assist you to respond to these office actions in a timely manner in order to keep the application moving forward.

  6. Granted with a patent: If the patent examiner determines that your invention meets the criteria for patentability, you will be granted a patent, which gives you exclusive rights to make, use, import and sell the invention for a period of time (typically 20 years from the earliest application filing date for an invention patent or a standard patent).

The timeline for obtaining a patent may vary, but it typically takes several years from the time the application is filed to the time the patent is granted. It is important to be patient and persistent throughout the process, as the rewards of obtaining a patent can be significant.

Overall, the process of obtaining a patent can be complex and time-consuming, but it is an important step in protecting your invention and ensuring that you have exclusive rights to use and profit from it. A qualified and experienced patent attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure that your application is complete and accurate.