FOCUS: THE PATENT LIFE CYCLE
The life cycle of a patent is divided into four stages:
1. Invention Disclosure — Invention disclosures follow the Eureka moment and, as such, they can be seen as the direct result of R&D efforts. Being technical documents related to the invention, they establish its description and define the scope of the future patent. Drafting an invention disclosure represents the first step into the patenting process.
2. Prior Art Search — Filing a patent can require up to thousands of dollars and several years of hard work, so it only makes sense to begin the journey by researching the prior art to get an idea of what technology already exists and avoid investing in an invention that won’t satisfy the patentability requirements.
3. Patent Filing — This stage sees the applicant submitting the patent application, which contains the claims in their first form: by defining the boundaries of the invention, they aim at giving it the widest scope possible without infringing others’ IP rights.
4. Patent Prosecution — The patent examiner evaluates the invention disclosed to assess whether it satisfies the patentability requirements: novelty, usefulness, non-obviousness, and subject matter eligibility. This phase is potentially very lengthy and often sees the original scope being narrowed.
5. Patent Enforcement — As long as the required maintenance fees are paid, a granted patent gives its holder the right to enforce it for 20 years from the earliest priority date (the date in which the application was first filed). At this stage, patent assets can also be monetized through licensing, selling and buying, litigation, and pledging.