VI of England
granted the earliest known English patent for invention to Flemish-born
Utynam through an open letter marked with the King's Great
Seal called a Letter
Patent. The patent gave John a 20-year monopoly for a method
of making stained glass that had not previously been known in
England, for creating the stained glass windows of Eton College.
Patents are used to protect inventions which are novel in that
they involve an inventive step over any earlier item to be found
in the course of official
(and un-official) searches. The invention should also be capable
of industrial application.
A patent is a monopoly granted by the government to the proprietor
of the patent for an invention which is fully described in its
specification. For a limited period (currently up to 20 years
and subject to the payment of annual renewal fees) no other party
is legally able to make use of the subject of the patent without
the consent of the proprietor. Like other property the proprietor
can exploit the monopoly on their own behalf or sell, licence
or lease it in a number of ways.
There are a variety of topics which are held not to be suitable
for forming the subject of a patent including: a new discovery,
a mathematical or scientific or business formula, work of art
or literature. Similarly, new types of human, plant or animal
diagnosis. Surgery or therapy would not be suitable for patenting,
although a new drug would be. Intellectual property law is in
a state of continuing development and what has previously regarded
as unpatentable in the UK can be re-interpreted, for example,
in the light of developments in the European Community.
A patent can be sought: in the UK, in individual foreign countries,
in various regions (including Europe) as an international application
(single application covering many countries).