A Brief Primer on Patents:
A patent is a legal contract between an inventor and the public. In order to promote and reward innovation, the contract states that if an idea is (i) novel, (ii) non-obvious, and (iii) reduced to practice, the inventor or innovator, upon registration and full public disclosure of the innovation, is thus provided a time limited monopoly to use the idea in commerce for one 20 year term. Under worldwide recognized trade laws, an applicant must file, within one year of initial filing, in each additional jurisdiction for which they want patent protection. After the initial one year period, no additional jurisdictional protection can be achieved and the technology is generically available to be developed by anyone.
Due to changes in patent law in the early 1980’s that effectively removed the need to reduce a stated invention to demonstrated practice; American, European, and Japanese corporations started a race to patent broad technology claims in fields ranging from hydroelectric power to biochips and fuel cells. While millions of patents were filed and issued, most of these ideas were never commercialized or even proven to be achievable. Since an invention cannot be patented twice, we are now in a situation where the broad range of patents filed before 1990 have expired and the information contained in the claims have become available for immediate deployment in the public domain.
Moreover, of the “valid” patents issued in that time frame, most did not seek coverage in markets besides the United States, Europe and Japan. In any country where a patent is not in force, the technology can either be freely developed and sold either internally, or to countries where the patent is not in force.
It is from this tremendous well of IP that the Global Innovation Commons (G.I.C.) was created.
While the public domain innovation exists for every initiative on the planet, the G.I.C. specifically covers the fields of Clean Energy, Water, Agriculture and Health Care. Within these fields, the G.I.C. assembles hundreds of thousands of these public domain innovations, which have either been abandoned, expired, disallowed, or are unprotected in relevant markets. People no longer need to reinvent the wheel by starting the research and development process from scratch. We can conserve resources by including publicly available innovation in a commons architecture allowing for rapid deployment of best of breed technologies.
What a patent is not....
A patent does not give you the right to DO something, rather it is a negative or exclusionary right which allows a holder to keep someone else from using an idea in commerce. Rarely do patents document every component of a technology.
A patent is not a technology! In most cases, patent applications are written to obscure a technology. Very few patents contain claims and descriptions which fully disclose the 'invention' and many cannot be reduced to practice.
Therefore, individual patents allow users to discover ideas, intentions, and interests. Some may describe a technology in sufficient detail to produce, others will not. However in most cases, a patent provides information about an inventor. Knowledge of who innovated what can help link the patent with an actual technology and serve as a point of connection and collaboration.
Aligned Sector: The business sector in which the product(s) resulting from the patent(s) is currently or intended to be sold.
Applicant: The person or corporation that applies for a patent with the intent to use, manufacture or license the technologyof the invention; under U.S. law, except in special situations, the applicant(s) must be the inventor(s).
Application: Complete papers submitted to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking a patent including oath, specification, claims, and drawings. This usually does not signify a Provisional Patent Application, but only a regular patent application.
Art: The established practice and public knowledge within a given field of technology. This also identifies a process or method used to produce a useful result. A term used in consideration of the problem of patentable novelty encompassing all that is known prior to the filing date of the application in the particular field of the invention.
Assignee: The person(s) or corporate body to whom the law grants or vests a patent right. This refers to the person or corporate entity that is identified as the receiver of an assignment.
Business Method Patent: A patent that controls the way a business process is undertaken. The issuance of these patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is new and controversial, since many allege that it is unfair to allow a patent on a way of doing business.
Citation: This may include patents or journal articles that the applicant or examiner deems relevant to a current application. A reference to legal authorities or a prior art documentation are examples of a citation.
Claim: The language in a patent application that defines the legal scope of the patent. Most patents have numerous claims. This is typically the single most important section in the application.
Concurrent Art: Concurrent art occurs when related patent applications are being examined by the USPTO at the same time. It is difficult for any company or inventor to know, at the time they file for a patent, whether a “related” patent application exists.
Filing Date: The date when a properly prepared application reaches the patent office in complete form.
Innovation Cycle: A description of the commercialization timeframe for the intellectual property.
Innovation Space: A representation of the innovation(s) that occur before, during, and after the pending period of the subject patent. The innovation space is the first place to look for patents that are closely related to the subject patent and that may impact the defensibility of the subject patent or create opportunities for patent licensing.
Issue Date: Not to be confused with the filing date, which is the date the patent application was physically received by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is the date on which the patent actually issues.
Non-Aligned Sector: Any sector in which the patent can be used or sold, other than the sector for which the patent or resultant product was invented or intended.
Pod: A group of patents owned by a company that should be treated as a single unit of innovation (e.g., a certain group of patents that comprise a single product or multiple related products).
Prior Art: Any relevant patent that was issued before the patent being analyzed. If this previous patent was specifically mentioned in the new patent’s application, the previous patent is referred to as “cited prior art”. If it was NOT mentioned, then that previous patent is referred to as “uncited prior art”.
Subsequent Art: Any patent that has a filing date with the USPTO that is after the issuance date of the subject patent. This subsequent art patent may or may not have cited (see “Citation” above) the subject patent. As subsequent art represents more recent innovation than the subject patent, it has great potential to shrink the market opportunity for the subject patent.