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
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).