In general, invention is a new solution, which solves some problem or provides more advantage to an existing product, like increased performance, reduced cost, prolonged lifetime, simplified production, etc. Formally, new and non-obvious methods, devices, materials or novel use of the later three could be called an invention and might be protected under patent law.
Many people ask 'How to protect an Idea?' . The question itself is not sufficiently correct. Idea without exact technical embodiment could barely be patented. For example: if one would like to protect an idea of 'harnessing kinetic energy of a rain', it could not be patented as 'Method for generating electricity from falling water, characterized in that kinetic energy of falling rain drops is harnessed....' One should propose a technical solution for doing that. He or she should describe, how the falling rain drops could be collected and how the kinetic energy is converted to electricity. That is how an'idea' is distinguished from an 'invention'. Whether there would be several ways of harnessing the energy of rain, having some common feature (conversion to electricity, collection method, etc.), all those modifications could be protected with a single patent.
What is the meaning of formal criteria of an invention?
A patentable invention shall have three main characteristics: be novel, have an inventive step and industrial applicability. Beginner inventors often get confused about the first two. We are forced to explain more thoroughly...
Novelty is a feature, which describes that the invention has never been available to public in the form of patents, articles, books, internet, etc. To be recognized as novel, the solution has to be totally new worldwide. In practice, it is not possible to find and review all possible information about a certain topics, so professional patent examiners, when performing a patent search pay particular attention to earlier patents and scientific publications. Sometimes handbooks too. Similar search could be done by the inventor himself/herself by searching in patent databases, which provide public access and in general are quite comprehensive. However, searching for scientific articles might be not so convenient.
Inventive Step is next most important feature. It means that if the invention is new, it should not be obvious for a specialist skilled in the art. We will elaborate more on this in the next post.
Industrial applicability means that the product or method can be repeatedly manufactured or performed. We will give examples in later posts.
If a solution meets all the three criteria it can be protected with patent. Similar requirements are applicable for industrial design registrations, except maybe Inventive Step. Industrial design has to be novel and reproducible. In later posts we will analyse, when it is worth having design registration instead of patent.