What is a patent?

A patent is a legal title that provides an inventor exclusive property rights to their invention for the length of the patent period. This period is generally 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed, during which the inventor can commercially exploit their invention, while stopping others from using it or making it without approval.

Patents are beneficial to society as they provide a reward for innovation as well as encourage the public dissemination of new ideas which might encourage the ideas of other inventors.

Patents may also hinder innovation; if the inventor is given a monopoly on too large an area of research related to his or her invention, this might discourage others from working in that or related areas for fear the inventor will take legal action against them.

The patent system straddles a fine line between rewarding and stifling innovation.

We will use the patent, ‘Hydrocodone/ibuprofen pharmaceutical compositions and methods’ to illustrate the criteria an invention must meet to obtain a patent.

The inventor was John Arnold and this patent was issued in 1986. It granted property rights for a new way to treat pain, by combining hydrocodone (a narcotic substance) with ibuprofen (an analgesic) into one therapeutic composition (in tablet form). We will refer to this as the Arnold invention or patent.

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