Patenting your invention
what is a patent?
A patent is a legal right to exclude others from exploiting your invention. For example, if your invention is patented, others can’t make, sell, use or import your invention without your permission. This exclusive control over your invention can help you dominate a market, attract investors, and provides leverage in commercial negotiations.
what do patents protect?
A patent is an intellectual property right which protects inventions.
Inventions can include any new and useful device, substance, method or process. Anything novel and commercially useful may be patentable, including software, micro-organisms and pharmaceuticals. Some notable Australian inventions we’re sure you’ve heard of include:
the Cochlear implant (bionic ear)
Polymer bank notes
the Hills Hoist clothesline
how do I patent my invention?
To qualify for patent protection, your invention must be novel. Essentially, your invention must be different from what is already known to the public. We thus recommend conducting a patent search to see if something similar to your invention already exists. Get in touch to learn more about our comprehensive patent searching services.
If your patent search yields promising results, the next step involves drafting and filing a patent application which satisfies the strict and varied patent requirements in Australia and overseas. Drafting patent specifications is an extremely specialised skill which only patent attorneys are qualified to do.
should I start with a provisional patent application?
If your invention is in the idea or prototyping stages and isn’t ready to hit the market, then filing an Australian provisional patent application can be a great place to start.
There are many advantages to filing a provisional patent application, including:
it is cost-effective (often starting at about $4,000)
it establishes your earliest filing date, which is important for determining whether your invention is patentable (the earlier your filing date the better)
the details of your invention will not be published (you don’t have to worry about competitors finding out what you’re working on)
the Australian Patent Office can conduct an “International-Type Search” on your provisional patent application to assess the patentability of your invention
future patent applications, including international “PCT” patent applications, can be based on your provisional patent application and share the same early filing date.
In short, there are plenty of reasons to start the patent application process by filing a provisional patent application. Your patent attorney can help you work out the next steps as your invention matures and becomes market-ready.
is there an international patent application?
Yes and no.
There is no such thing as an “international” patent which protects you in every country around the world. Patent rights operate on a per-country basis and you will need to file individual patent applications in each country where you want patent protection (e.g. your Australian patent won’t stop your invention from being copied in the US).
That said, it is possible to file an “international patent application” under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This PCT application can be based on an Australian provisional patent application, and is effectively a bundle of pending patent rights which you can then extend into over 150 countries and states around the world. This can be a very cost-effective way of keeping your filing options open, especially if your invention has not hit the market yet and you’re still unsure about exactly which countries patent protection will be important in.
Advantageously, a PCT application won’t require too much additional time to prepare if it is based on your existing provisional patent application.
how long does it take to get a patent granted?
The patent application process varies based on your commercial strategy, which countries you want protection in, and whether you would like to speed up the process in order to enforce your rights.
Pending patent rights are also powerful tools for keeping competitors at bay and demonstrates to business partners and investors the patentability of your invention.
The flowchart below shows a standard patent application process, starting with the Australian provisional patent application:
can I protect my invention with a design registration?
Design registrations typically protect how something looks, rather than how something works. That said, if the function of your product is intrinsically tied to its appearance, then you should consider both patent and design protection.