A patent is an exclusive right granted for the protection of an invention. “Invention” means a solution to a specific problem in the field of technology. An invention may relate to a product or a process.
The patent provides its owner with the exclusive right to prevent others from commercially exploiting the invention for a limited period of time (generally 20 years from the filing date of the application) in return for disclosing the invention to the public.
An invention must meet several criteria if it is to be eligible for patent protection. These include, most significantly, that the invention must consist of patentable subject matter, the invention must be industrially applicable (useful), it must be new (novel), it must exhibit a sufficient “inventive step” (be non-obvious), and the disclosure of the invention in the patent application must meet certain standards.
An invention is new if it is not anticipated by the prior art. “Prior art” is, in general, all the knowledge that existed prior to the relevant filing or priority date of a patent application, whether it existed by way of written or oral disclosure. Prior disclosure by the inventor may prevent patent protection
In relation to the requirement of inventive step, the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art must be such that the subject matter as a whole would not have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person skilled in the art, to which the subject matter pertains.
A utility model is an intellectual property right to protect inventions, very similar to the patent, but usually has a shorter term (often 6 to 15 years) and less stringent patentability requirements. Utility models generally refer to certain little inventions in the mechanical field. This is why the objects of utility models are sometimes described as devices or useful objects.