Home » Why Are Patent Terms Limited? | IP Conversations

Why Are Patent Terms Limited? | IP Conversations

Why? What? When? How? These are some of the most used words in John’s dictionary. He’s pretty curious about the workings behind what happens in his life, and many of those have to do with the inventions and the workings of intellectual property in the world around him.

John’s been thinking a lot about how much patents help people in the innovation industry- he personally knows at least a couple of people who have patented and monetized their inventions. But one thing bothers him, and it’s the limited period of protection granted by the Patent office, so he turns to IP Geek for answers.

Hello IP Geek! A friend of mine was complaining to me the other day. He was finally granted a patent after two years of making the application, and he had to spend a lot of money on drafting fees, examination reply fees and so on. And after that he learned that he only has 18 years of protection left. Why is patent protection so limited?

I understand your friend’s frustrations, but patents have always been granted for limited periods of time.


This period is usually 20 years from the date of the application, which means that even if your patent was granted 7 years after the application, you can only get protection for the remaining 13 years afterwards.


With all that effort, shouldn’t we be getting more time? 20 years seems like a lot at first glance, but shouldn’t ownership last longer than that?

Well, it is important to note that Patents represent an advancement in technology, and what pretty much everyone in the world agrees on is that tech needs to advance as fast and as efficiently as possible.


A patent is a form of IP that specifically grants limited-term monopoly rights in exchange for a degree of disclosure on the invention. An applicant need not disclose every single little detail, but the basic concept of the invention must be disclosed.


If there were no patents- ie, government mandated exclusivity periods, inventors would have to resort to measures of extreme secrecy instead.


In an environment of secrecy, there would be no mandatory disclosure requirements. Patents exchange disclosure for exclusivity, but if secrecy was all that protected new tech, nobody would let other innovators be aware of new advancements. This is both unsustainable and bad for development, and leads to losses all around.


 I guess that explains the public benefits. But with these limits, what are the actual advantages to getting a patent?

Without government backed patent protection, a rival company may imitate the technology of your innovation and sell it in the market at a lower price. Even though it can be an expensive investment, the patent allows you to sell, manufacture and license it to third parties and allows you to reap the benefits without fear for a period of 20 years.


This favours small inventors as they do not have to invest in expensive secrecy measures, and they get the law on their side.


Ah, so I guess there are still plenty of benefits, depending on how you use your 20 year term. Thanks, IP Geek.


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