Patents are a type of intellectual property, which grants an applicant the ”sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using and vending to others to be used” for their invention. Patents are granted for a term of 20 years from the date of first filing, and if the patent office is really slow processing then they’ll guarantee you at least 17 years.
Patents can be granted for “any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used.” Patents are disallowed for subject matter in the categories of “laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.” In order to obtain a patent, an invention must be: (1) patent-eligible subject matter; (2) useful; (3) novel; and (4) nonobvious.
Ideally, this sort of protection is supposed to incentivize progress. For some industries, like biopharmaceuticals, the cost to develop a successful drug is so high that without protection there would be some degree of market failure.
While patents have avoided the slippery slope copyright slide down with regards to duration, they have grown equally as ridiculously expansive. Copyright sees creativity in everything short of a phone book, the nonobviousness requirement of patent law has become similarly as all-encompassing, leading to all sorts of ridiculous patents which lead to a lot of wasted expense.
- The Constitution grants exclusive intellectual property rights “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.↵