One of the main requirements to obtain a patent is that the invention not be known to the public. This prevents people from patenting inventions that are not special and unique to the inventor. Therefore, it is important to keep an invention secret until you’ve had a chance to discuss patenting it with an attorney.
Access to patent information isn’t just important for inventors looking to protect their inventions but also for companies looking to license new technology. Therefore, the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training runs an online search tool called the Patent Licensing Information Database that freely allows the public to search for information about registered patents. There is no fee to use the service and no registration is required.
The Utility Model Act protects the shape or structure of a device. Typically, Utility Model applications are reserved for inventions that are simpler than those covered by the Patent Act and as such, the application process is also streamlined. However, the 10 year protection granted is only half as long as the duration of a patent right.
Sometimes the right to patent an invention doesn’t rest directly with the inventor but rather with the company the inventor works for. Many companies, universities and research centers take measures to ensure that the institution, and not the inventor, owns all patents arising from an invention.