8.7.1 Applying fora patent If you think you have something patentable it is vital to keep it secret and not disclose it in anyway. A patent needs to be filed in each country where it needs to be protected – normally the countries in which the product is to be sold or the process licensed. Upon submission of an application, the examiners at the IP office will scrutinise the submission to see if it meets the criteria for patenting. Later, this will also be subject to wider searchers to find out if this patent exists elsewhere so as to avoid infringing the rights of others. A patent system performs both protection of an invention as well as disclosure of information so that others may use it when the patent lapses. Patent information is not secret even at the time it is under protection. The technical specification can be accessed to enable a researcher to make improvements to what already exists on the market. In European inventor can obtain patent protection for all European countries under the European Convention (EPC). Article 2 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial property obliges member states of the convention to treat nationals of fellow member states the same way as their own nationals with regard to industrial property protection. Application for protection would be done in each member county within twelvemonths upon the
99 first application as it were. However, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) administered by WIPO simplifies this process byway of filing one single international application with the same effect as filing separate applications in all different countries party to the PCT. This reduces on costs for protection as well as processing of the application. Apart from paying the necessary fees, the conditions for granting a patent have to be fulfilled and a search will be made before a patent is granted. An annual fee needs to be paid by the patent holder to maintain the originator’s property rights. It is therefore imperative for an IPR holder to find ways of exploiting his/her IP so as to justify the costs of its protection.